Sunday, May 5, 2019

Giuliano Bugialli, food writer and teacher: 1931-2019

I just learned that Giuliano Bugialli died on 26 April 2019. You can read his obituary (here) at the New York Times.

After purchasing The Fine Art of Italian Cooking in the late 1980’s, I wanted to amass all of Mr. Bugialli’s cookbooks. His works serve as an expert guide to anyone who wants to understand traditional Italian cuisine. I learned about nocino (here) from his Foods of Naples and Campania (and for this I shall always be grateful). I constantly reference his Bugialli on Pasta. Case-in-point: my 18 April 2019 post (here) on Nettle Powder Pasta. I believe Bugialli’s Classic Techniques of Italian Cooking rivals Jacques Pepin’s The Art of Cooking.

To honor Mr. Bugialli, I want to share one of my favorite recipes from all of his cookbooks. Pasta con I carciofi comes from Bugialli on Pasta. In his chapter on Pasta and Vegetables, he includes five artichoke recipes. The following Sicilian recipe is a delicious take on Pasta alla carbonara but with artichokes. It serves 4 to 6.

1 large lemon, cut in half
3 large artichokes
½ cup olive oil
1 medium-sized red onion, peeled
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup lukewarm water
2 extra-large eggs
2 tablespoons freshly grated pecorino Siciliano or romano cheese
1 pound dried rigatoni, preferably imported Italian

Squeeze the lemon into a bowl of cold water and drop in the lemon halves. Add the artichokes to soak for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, finely chop the onion on a board. Clean the artichokes following the instructions on page 67, and cut them in quarters. Then cut each quarter into thin slices and return to the lemon water.

Heat the oil in a medium-sized flameproof casserole over medium heat; when the oil is warm, add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes. Drain the artichokes and add to the casserole, mix very well, and sauté for 4 minutes more. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and add the water. Cover the casserole and cook for 30 minutes, stirring every so often with a wooden spoon. When finished, the liquid should be completely absorbed and the artichokes very soft.

Bring a large pot of cold water to a boil. Mix the eggs with the cheese and salt and pepper to taste in a large serving bowl. When the water reaches a boil, add coarse salt to taste, then add the pasta and cook until al dente, for 9 to 12 minutes depending on the brand. Drain the pasta, transfer to the bowl with the egg mixture, mix gently but thoroughly, then add the artichokes with their juice. Mix again and serve with a few twists of black pepper.

Bugialli was a great teacher and so, no surprise, this recipe offers so many valuable cooking lessons. First, US grocery store produce often benefits from re-hydration. I’d like to think this was true in 1988 but no longer the case in 2019—but sadly, no. To this day I still trim and soak store-bought vegetables to re-hydrate them before cooking. Second, you can create so many beautiful pasta sauces by employing the technique of gently braising vegetables—in the case of this recipe, artichokes—to tenderness. Finally, I love that Bugialli uses water to braise the artichokes. Although today I often cook with rice koji stock or some other super-liquid, this recipe reminds me that water delivers pure flavor.