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still-life-chicken-and-pepper-guna-andersone

A chicken-and-red-pepper yoga map.

Recipe below: Chicken alla Cacciatora My Way

What exactly is pollo alla cacciatora, anyway? Or chicken cacciatore, as we always called it? The hunter’s wife’s dish. My family made it a lot, always in a Southern Italian style, but it can be many things, depending on the region. My mother, a hunter of fine nail colors, made hers with tomato, red wine, and red bell peppers, adding a little garlic, and often including dried oregano. This, I assumed, was a Campanian or Puglian version, from where we come from. I never liked it. There was something harsh there. In our family, it was mostly a winter dish, so the bell peppers were supermarket-bought, not from my father’s garden. They lacked sweetness and were maybe a bit acidic. It’s funny. I love red sweet peppers—peperonata amazes me—but I’m not crazy about them mixed with tomatoes, I think that brings out their underlying sharpness. And dried oregano slow cooked in a braise, as it is here, gives off a musty note. Southerners and their dried oregano. I still don’t understand it. Sorry, Mom. I loved almost everything you made, but chicken cacciatore not so much. I occasionally prepare it her way, just for a taste of childhood, but I ditch the oregano and add fresh basil at the end. An improvement.

Tomato-and-sweet-pepper cacciatore is the version that usually came to this country. Every Italian family I knew made it that way. But in Naples and vicinity, where many Italian Americans are from, it’s unusual. Generally speaking, the Southern cacciatora almost always means chicken braised with rosemary, white or red wine, and tomatoes. And in all the Naples and Campania cookbooks I have (and I have a lot), I don’t see a sweet pepper version, except, and this is an interesting exception, in Sophia Loren’s surprisingly good cookbook, In the Kitchen with Love. Her pollo alla cacciatora contains red bell peppers and tomatoes and is pretty much like my mother’s. Sophia grew up minutes away from Naples, but no Rrosemary here. My mother didn’t use rosemary either. Sophia uses basil. So I guess both ways have a history. I also wonder if the sweet pepper version may not have originated in neighboring Calabria, where they use lots of peppers, both sweet and hot, and then maybe travelled around the south (there’s so much culinary overlap in those regions) before crossing the sea to land in Brooklyn, Queens, and Long Island, its final resting place.

Chicken alla cacciatora is not just a Southern dish. I’m guessing its name originated in Tuscany or Umbria, where they’re big hunters. Neapolitans were more into foraging. The central Italian versions almost always contain rosemary, too, and may or may not use tomatoes. I’ve never seen a Central Italian cacciatore with sweet peppers. Mushrooms, yes.

And, getting to the chicken component, I doubt many of my ancestors had the luxury of eating a chicken dinner ever, or possibly once or twice on special occasions. Maybe a chicken could be killed if someone was gravely sick, for broth, for protein. But mostly it would be saved for its eggs. I would guess the preparation was more often done with rabbit, or goat in some regions, and then evolved when chickens became easier to part with. I think cacciatore really took off for Mezzogiorno people when they got here, to the land of abundance and waste.

I make cacciatore in various ways, sometimes with wild mushrooms and no tomatoes. I also love it simply with white wine, a little garlic, and a lot of fresh herbs—sage, thyme, fennel fronds, parsley. But maybe my favorite version is the more or less classic one with just wine (I like using dry vermouth), tomatoes, and rosemary.

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Chicken alla Cacciatora My Way

(Serves 4)

4 chicken legs, separated into thighs and drumsticks (or use all thighs)
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil
A ¼-inch-thick round of pancetta, chopped
2 shallots, cut into small dice
1 or 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 or 4 juniper berries, lightly crushed
½ teaspoon ground allspice
1 bay leaf, preferably fresh
4 large sprigs rosemary, the leaves well chopped
4 ounces dry vermouth
¾ cup good chicken broth
6 canned San Marzano tomatoes, drained and then well chopped
A handful of Gaeta olives, pitted if you like

Salt and pepper the chicken pieces. Get out a large skillet with a lid, and set it over medium heat. Add a big drizzle of olive oil, and let it get hot. Add the chicken, and brown it well on both sides. Remove it from the pan.

If you’ve got a lot of fat in the pan, drain some off. Next, still over medium heat, add the pancetta, and let it get crispy. Add the shallots, and let them soften. Add the garlic, juniper berries, allspice, bay leaf, and rosemary, and cook them briefly to release their fragrances. Return the chicken to the pan. Add the vermouth, and let it bubble for about a minute. Add the chicken broth and the tomatoes, and turn the chicken pieces around a few times to distribute all the flavors. Let it all come to a boil.

Turn the heat to low, cover the pan, and simmer until the chicken is just tender, about 20 minutes. You’ll want to turn the pieces over once or twice during the cooking. Add the olives in the last few minutes. Turn off the heat, and let the chicken sit, covered, for about 10 minutes. That will help mellow all the flavors and let the chicken continue to cook through gently to tender.

Taste the sauce, and add more salt, pepper, or other seasonings until it tastes rich but also bright. If the sauce is kind of loose, you can remove the chicken pieces, boil down the liquid to reduce it, and then pour it back over the chicken.

Serve with good bread.

 

Lefebvre, Ernest Eugene, 1850-1889; Still Life with a Pitcher, Glasses and a Bowl of Salad

Still Life with a Pitcher, Glasses, and a Bowl of Salad, by Ernest Lefebvre, 1850–1889.

Recipe below: Salad of Chicories with an Anchovy Vinaigrette and Butter Croutons

Often when I’m not eating a good green salad I’m thinking about one. I’m drawn to leafy green plants. I always was, even as a little kid. I like tearing the leaves with my hands. I like eating them raw. And I get pleasure from washing a salad, watching the dirt fall through water to the bottom of the sink and then lifting the leaves from the top without disturbing the grit. That’s a job well done.

I serve a green salad at the end of a meal, when I feel it’s most needed, both as a digestivo and as a way of drawing out the evening for more talk and a little more wine. That’s a good time to ruminate with old friends, to get nostalgic about something that wasn’t much even when it happened. And when after a long, nice meal at a friend’s house I see a simple green salad brought to the table, a calm comes over me. In our uncivilized world, the gesture of giving a little more is so welcome. As long as the cook doesn’t add too much vinegar, I’m happy.

I eat a green salad after just about every evening meal. I like gentle salads, I like biting ones. Slowing down and settling in, especially after a few hours of cooking, soothes my psyche. I’m no longer hungry, but now I can savor the fruitiness of a really good olive oil, or the bitterness of chicory.  I dress the salad at the table—a ritual that says: Don’t go yet. There’s a fresh savory plate here. Let’s see where it takes us.

I never miss the opportunity to serve a green salad after pasta with lamb ragù, or beef stew, or whole grilled sea bass, or roast chicken. It’s pretty much mandatory. To my thinking, the best part of any roast chicken dinner is the salad, drizzled with a bit of the chicken cooking juice.  Add a finish of fine olive oil and a few drops of vinegar, and we’ve gone full circle with the meal. Sometimes I like to sauté up the chicken’s innards and toss them into the salad, too. Here’s a short video to show you how I like to make a salad with roasting juice.

 

Chicory, arugula, escarole, and dandelion were the salad greens of choice for my mother. Bitter was where it was at for Italian-Americans back then. I still often return to the chicory family for my leaves, especially in winter, when they’re in the best shape. I mix escarole with hits of red Belgian endive or Treviso radicchio, whose streaks of dark red make for a beautiful combination. I also love to make a gentler salad with Boston lettuce or butter lettuce alone. It depends. I mostly don’t like to add tomatoes to my green salads. I find that they muddy the beauty.

The elements of a righteous vinaigrette are good oil, salt, an acid (not too much), sometimes black pepper, and maybe a touch of garlic or mustard. I mix the vinaigrette at the table, eyeballing it, since I know where I’m going. So many salads, so many vinaigrettes in my life. If you’re using a wooden salad bowl, it’s nice to make the vinaigrette right in the bowl and then lay the leaves on top, tossing gently but thoroughly, so everything gets evenly coated. There’s nothing like a well-seasoned wooden salad bowl. I have a crazy big one, a long boat, really, that belonged to my grandfather Erico, who I sadly never met, though I was named for him. I’ve heard that he cared greatly about his food.

Here’s a salad with a little anchovy in it.

Salad of Chicories with an Anchovy Vinaigrette and Butter Croutons

(Serves 4)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 thick, dry slices of country bread, cut into 1-inch cubes, using most of the crust
Salt
1 large head of escarole, the tough outer leaves saved for sautéing, the rest torn into pieces
2 red Belgian endives or 1 Treviso radicchio, separated into leaves
Freshly ground black pepper

For the vinaigrette:

1 small fresh garlic clove, lightly crushed with the side of a knife
About ½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice
About ½ teaspoon rice wine vinegar
About 5 drops colatura, or 2 oil-packed anchovies, well chopped
About 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Melt the butter in a sauté pan over medium heat. When it’s hot, add the bread cubes, and sprinkle them with a little salt. Sauté them, stirring frequently, until they’re golden and crisp all over, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Put the escarole and the endive or radicchio into a large salad bowl. Grind on a few big turns of black pepper.

Mix all the ingredients for the vinaigrette together in a small bowl. Taste to balance out the oil and acid.

Toss the salad with the vinaigrette. Add the croutons, and toss again gently. Serve right away.

Women with Fish

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Sirens and fishes. My good luck muse. Charm me today.

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Recipe below: Linguini with Clams, Vermouth, and Thyme

My first serious cooking job was at Restaurant Florent. Florent Morellet hired me despite my lack of experience. I’d been through only a few months of cooking school, and I’d worked for several caterers, but never in a restaurant. I had no idea what I was getting into, but I guess because I was so buzzed up and eager he took a chance.

I was put on lunch duty alongside a perpetually pissed-off chef who welcomed me with, “If I can’t yell at you, I can’t work with you.” I suppose because I was female he needed to get that straight on day one. I was actually happy to hear there’d be no special treatment for a five-foot-one-inch, 90-pound girl who hardly knew what she was doing. But this guy couldn’t stop yelling. I guess I was slow at first at whisking tubs of salad dressing, cleaning sinks full of mussels, roasting beef bones that were almost impossible for me to lift out of the oven.

The job was harder than I expected, but I was determined. Still, the more he screamed, the more anxious, insular, and slow I became. My string beans were problematic, because I don’t know why. They got brushed off my station onto the floor by Mr. Chef as he screamed, “Fucking shit!” Same with a bag of expensive scallops he told me to slice. I asked him how he wanted them cut. That brought only silence and an angry stare. Just tell me what you want me to do. But no. I then heard how “retarded” I was. The heat did scare me a little at first, but at least I avoided Bronsoning the hell out of those silvery fish, as he did. Customers complained that his were too blackened.

“Don’t stare at the busboy when I’m talking to you.” “Stop fucking around with your side towel.” And then he’d get all chatty, talking theater and Beckett, or that awful Blue Man Group, while I raced to wash three tubs of salad greens before the 11:30 lunch countdown.

At first I thought, well, this is just the passionate behavior of a dedicated chef. But I soon realized this guy was more suited for a sloppy American diner than a good kitchen. His cooking was, not up to the charm of the place at all. In his hands a grilled ham and gruyère sandwich, which should be a thing of beauty, turned into a burnt, oozing mess. He was all about speed, at any cost. He had little interest in detail, which surprised me, since even back then I understood it to be a given. Otherwise what’s the point?

Mr. Chef’s specials were particularly unpolished. One 7:30 a.m. I found cans of nasty chopped clams piled on my station. My chore was to open all the cans and pour the clam nibs, dark gray and smelling like cheap cat food, and their rank liquid into one of those stainless inset pots. “They’re gonna love this,” he said, as I watched him execute the first order, throwing in a fistful of garlic and then a ladle of the rubbery bits with their stinking liquid. That was the entire sauce, poured over flaccid spaghetti. I thought of my mother’s calm sauce, with its purple tinged Manilla clam shells, its aroma of white wine, parsley, and olive oil, and its touch of peperoncino. What was this guy doing here? And why was he serving this at all in a French bistro, when he should be spending his time trying to keep the boudin noir from exploding across the stove? The meatpacking guys who ate at Florent, many of them Italian-Americans, complained loudly about the stupid plate of pasta. I was deeply embarrassed. Schifo of the highest order. I told Mr. Chef my grandmother would have rolled over in her grave had she seen what he did to that spaghetti. With that, he threw a big sauce pan at my stomach. Oddly, it didn’t hurt, but it did startle me. Okay, I shouldn’t have said that, but by then I was so sick of his perverse anger and crappy cooking, it just came out.

Can-to-table method aside, this guy was such a dick. I told the head chef I might need to quit. He said, hang on, he was working on something. I assumed this meant working on replacing him, which I learned was true. But before that even happened, Mr. Chef had one of his time-consuming fits that greatly underlined the issue. This time he was provoked not by me but by one of the hardworking Mexican stock guys. I’m not sure what he did wrong, but Mr. Chef again threw a sauce pan across the kitchen, missing the stock guy but smashing into the restaurant’s fire protection system. White foam came spraying from the ceiling, not only in the kitchen but in the front of the house too. It was magical. A silence fell over the place as we all stood there and watched the lovely snow fall. Florent closed down for a day to clean up the mess. The next day Mr. Chef was out. I was more than relieved. In his place came a real chef, someone who taught me much and became a friend. I went on to work at Florent for four more years.

I’ve given a lot of thought to tyrannical kitchen culture and how harmful it is. I’m not talking about sexual abuse, I’m talking about bullying, which is a tradition. I’ve been told it developed as a way to keep twelve-year-old kitchen apprentices in France under control, a repulsive explanation. It certainly traveled here, and here it had nothing to do with kids. And I don’t think it’s a productive way to energize the weak or unmotivated. What is does is mess up performance, keeping good cooks from blossoming. After my stint with Mr. Chef, I went on to work with many chefs, and only one other subscribed to this creed. Mostly they were decent. If I screwed up, they told me, and we worked it out. Once I got fired for not being a fast enough line cook at a trendy, packed restaurant. The chef didn’t throw anything at me, he didn’t curse at me, he just fired me. And rightly so.

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Linguini with Clams, Vermouth, and Thyme

(Serves 4 as a main course)

Extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup dry vermouth
½ cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 to 5 dozen (depending on their size) littleneck or Manila clams, soaked and cleaned
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 fresh peperoncino, minced
Salt
1 pound linguini
6 large thyme sprigs, the leaves lightly chopped
A handful of flat-leaf parsley, the leaves chopped
The grated zest and a little of the juice from 1 lemon

Set up a pot of pasta cooking water and bring it to a boil. Add a generous amount of salt.

Pour the vermouth and chicken broth into a wide pot. Add the butter and about 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Turn the heat to medium high, and bring the pot to a boil, letting it go for a minute or so. Now add the clams, and partially cover the pot to let the steam build back up. Then uncover the pan, and, with tongs, start pulling the clams out, one by one, as they open, dropping them into a big bowl. Clams are not as predictable as mussels; they proceed at their own pace, so to avoid overcooking the early openers, this tedious procedure is unavoidable. Drizzle the clams with a little olive oil.

Strain the clam cooking liquid into a bowl to get rid of any sand.

Drop the bucatini into the water.

Rinse out the cooking pot to remove sand, and then pour in about 3 tablespoons of olive oil and get it hot over medium heat. Add the garlic, the fresh chili, and the thyme, and sauté until fragrant, about a minute or so. Add the clam liquid, and let it simmer for about 2 minutes. Now add the clams, with any liquid they may have given off, and stir everything around for a few seconds. Turn off the heat.

When the bucatini is al dente, drain it, leaving some of the cooking water clinging to it. Place it in a large serving bowl, and give it a drizzle of fresh olive oil.

Pour the clams and their liquid over the bucatini. Add the lemon zest and the parsley, and squeeze on a little lemon juice. Taste for salt. You may or may not need it, depending on how salty your clams are. Toss well. Serve hot.

 

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Still Life with Clams, by Trish Savides.

Recipe below: Fregola with Clams, Saffron, and Sweet Wine

For a long time I shied away from making cooking videos. I thought they’d make me nervous, and the results would be stiff. I’m not sure why I thought that, since I’m pretty freewheeling, though I guess somewhat insular. I love my kitchen. I love cooking and writing about what I cook. But I’ve often been too happy alone, with my flames, steam, knives, heat.

I finally decided to just  jump in, no planning. The result has been unexpected. I feel no tension. I simply move along with what I’m doing, the natural flow of a dish put forth by a person who loves to cook. No talking about measurements, ¼ cup of this, teaspoon of that. That’s not helpful. My thoughts go to flavor, technique. I just want to show you how it rolls out.

I hope you’ll enjoy my videos. Please leave comments and thoughts. I’ll be doing more, getting inspiration mostly from what I’ve decided to cook for dinner. So all will be spontaneous. My aim is to help you to be the best cook you can, with warm encouragement.

This recipe for fregola with clams is one of my favorites. I like it almost as much as the classic linguini with clam sauce. Fregola is a Sardinian pasta made like couscous—durum wheat rolled, sometimes by hand, into little balls, although ones quite a bit larger than most couscous. But—where it really differs from couscous—fregola is roasted, giving it a slightly smoky taste and an interesting uneven coloring, ranging from light beige to dark brown in one package. The texture is chewy and porous, and the winy, herb-loaded clam broth soaks in easily, creating a rounded flavor.

Here’s my video of making it.

Fregola with Clams, Saffron, and Sweet Wine

 (Serves 4 as a main course)

¾ pound large fregola
Salt
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 ¼-inch-thick slice pancetta, cut into small cubes
1 large shallot, minced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 fresh red chili, minced (a peperoncino is perfect)
½ cup slightly sweet white wine such as a sweet prosecco or Riesling or even sweet vermouth (you don’t want a super sweet dessert wine like vin santo)
½ cup chicken broth
About 4 dozen littleneck or Manila clams (which are basically the same), the smaller the better, well cleaned
A large pinch of saffron threads, ground to a powder and dissolved in a few tablespoons of hot water
The grated zest from 1 lemon
A few large sprigs of marjoram
A handful of flat-leaf parsley, lightly chopped

Set up a large pot of pasta cooking water, and bring it to a boil. Season with salt. Drop in the fregola, and cook it until just tender. Drain it, and pour it into a large serving bowl (one big enough to also hold all the opened clams). Drizzle it with a little olive oil, and cover the bowl to keep it warm.

In a large pot big enough to hold all the clams when opened, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the pancetta, and sauté until just crisp. Add the shallot, garlic, and hot chili, and sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the sweet wine, and let it bubble for a few seconds. Add the chicken broth, and simmer uncovered for a few minutes.

Add the clams, and cook them partially covered for a few minutes. Take off the cover, and give them a stir. As they open, pull them with tongs from the sauce into a bowl. (They won’t all open at once, so if you leave the early openers in the skillet, they’ll be overcooked by the time the rest decide to pop.) Drizzle the opened clams with a little olive oil,

Add the saffron water and the lemon zest to the broth, and boil down for about a minute.

Add the marjoram and parsley to the fregola. Add the clams and a drizzle of fresh olive oil. Now pour the clam sauce on top, and give it all a good toss. Taste for seasoning. It probably won’t need salt, since the pancetta and the clams are pretty salty, but you never know. Serve in big bowls. Spoons are a good idea, to scoop up the broth.

 

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Butternut Squash, by Andrea Hill.

Recipe below: Orecchiette with Butternut Squash, Leeks, and Sausage

I’ve unpacked my Uniqlo cashmere V-neck and my suede Beatle boots. I’m ready, but maybe not as willing as I should be. Fall used to be my favorite season. Now I make the bad mistake of gazing beyond into the future. I know that’s not very Zen of me, but I already feel winter breathing down my neck. And New York winters now seem grayer and creepier, more drawn out one-tone affairs. Is it just me who thinks the seasons are changing? We hardly even get seriously cold weather or snow to break things up anymore. And when I go to the market to try to perk myself up, what do I find? Tons of hard squash. Nothing juicy going on right now.

Butternut squashes, both long and bulbous, are piled high at the Union Square market, along with all sorts of pumpkins and brown and green hard ribbed things that look fibrous and impenetrable. But, you know what, I love the flavor of butternut squash. It can be a challenge for a cook, as I’m sure you know, especially for a cook like me who focuses on Mediterranean flavors. But even Southern Italians have to deal with rough stuff in chillier weather, and they’ve found excellent ways of doing so. This pasta with squash and pork sausage is a good example.

I love this dish. It smells and tastes like the Thanksgiving of my dreams. And it’s great a for a party, which is what I recently cooked it for, followed by a fennel and celery salad. To me this particular pasta speaks of the season more than any other. It has put me solidly in the present, which is where I prefer to be.

Here’s a video from my preparation for that party.

Orecchiette with Butternut Squash, Leeks, and Sausage

Extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium butternut squash, skinned and cut into ½-inch cubes
2 leeks, well cleaned and thinly sliced, using only the tender white and light green parts
1 large garlic clove, thinly sliced
2 sweet Italian pork sausages, the casings removed, the meat pulled into bits
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon ground allspice
5 rosemary sprigs, the leaves well chopped
5 sage leaves, chopped
2 big splashes of dry vermouth
1 pound orecchiette
The grated zest from 1 lemon
A chunk of primo sale cheese

Set an extra-large sauté pan over medium heat. Drizzle in about a tablespoon or so of olive oil. Add the butternut squash and the leeks, and sauté for a minute or so. Add the garlic, and season with salt, black pepper, the allspice, the rosemary, and the sage. Continue sautéing until the squash is tender and fragrant and the leeks are soft, about 8 minutes. Add the splash of vermouth, and let it bubble for a few seconds.

While the squash is cooking, get out another, smaller sauté pan, and set it over medium heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil. Add the sausage, and sauté until it’s browned. Add a splash of vermouth, and let it bubble.

Bring a big pot of pasta cooking water to a boil, and season it with salt. Drop in the orecchiette.

Add the sausage to the butternut squash. Add the lemon zest, and give everything a good stir.

When the orecchiette is al dente, drain it, saving a little of the pasta cooking water. Add the orecchiette to the pan with the squash, and sauté it over low heat for about a minute, just to blend all the flavors, adding pasta cooking water to loosen the sauce. Taste for seasoning.

Pour the pasta into a large serving bowl, and grate on some primo sale. Give it a quick toss, bringing the rest of the cheese to the table.

Zuppa di Zucca

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Moonlight Pumpkins, by Christie.

Recipe below: Zuppa di Zucca

A few days ago I got myself a big cheese pumpkin, a wide, flat beige thing whose insides cook up creamy, not watery and stringy like other varieties. This odd looking pumpkin has been around since the 1800s, first cultivated in this country on Long Island. The one I bought was huge, maybe six pounds. I lugged it home from the Greenmarket, hacked it in in half, scooped out the seeds and all the fibrous stuff, and roasted it. The aroma from the oven was sweet and heavy.  From one of the halves I made a favorite recipe, torta di zucca, a Ligurian savory torta. Then I had a half a pumpkin left, oozing in my refrigerator. Its deep orange flesh was so lovely, so pumpkin, I couldn’t let it go to waste. After a little thought, I decided to make a soup.

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Pumpkin soup American-style. I don’t always love it. Too much spice, too sweet. When I was a kid, I think we had it made from a can, corn starch slimy. But prepared with Italian flair, it becomes a more beguiling creation (surprise). I’m sure you’ve seen the way Italians serve the soup inside a scooped out pumpkin. I love that. But even just in a bowl it can be what the Italians call vellutata, velvety, and it’s often garnished with shaved Parmigiana, a drizzle of balsamico, or crisp bits of pancetta. It’s truly savory. Here’s my take on it.

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Zuppa di Zucca

(Serves 6)

½ a small cheese pumpkin, or a large butternut squash cut in half, the seeds and fibrous stuff removed (save the pumpkin seeds for roasting if you like)
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt
1 ¼-inch-thick round of pancetta, in one piece
1 large onion, well chopped
2 carrots, cut into small dice
½ teaspoon ground allspice
About 10 thyme sprigs, the leaves lightly chopped
5 rosemary sprigs, the leaves lightly chopped
1 teaspoon honey
1 quart light chicken broth, preferably homemade
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup heavy cream
Balsamic vinegar for drizzling
A small chunk of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Drizzle the inside of the pumpkin with olive oil, and sprinkle on a little salt.  Place it, cut side down, on a sheet pan, and roast until it’s soft and fragrant, about an hour, depending on the size of your pumpkin (it might need a bit longer.; you can test by poking a thin knife through the skin to feel for softness). Take it from the oven, and when it’s cool enough to handle, scoop out its insides. You’ll want about 3 cups of pulp.

Get out a large soup pot, and set it over medium heat. Add the piece of pancetta and a little olive oil, and let them sizzle for a few minutes, letting the pancetta brown a bit and turning it a few times. Add the onion and carrot and allspice, and sauté until the vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes. Add the thyme and rosemary, and heat to release their aromas. Add the honey and the chicken broth, and let the liquid heat through. Add the pumpkin, and stir it around well to loosen it into the broth. Season with a little black pepper and salt.

Let simmer, partially covered, for about 10 minutes, adding some hot water if it gets too thick.

Pull out the pancetta. Purée the soup in a food processor ,and pour it in back into the pot. Reheat it gently, and add the cream. Taste for seasoning. Ladle the soup into bowls, and garnish  it with a thread of balsamic vinegar and shavings of Parmigiano.