Praianese migliaccio: the Carnival dish of the Amalfi Coast
Carnival is synonymous with fun, masks and merriment, but also and above all with abundance in the kitchen. Like any self-respecting festival, it boasts a rich and tasty culinary tradition. Every region and country of the boot has its own typical recipes that have been handed down from generation to generation for centuries. In Praiano, as in the entire Amalfi Coast, at this particular time of year, the traditional Praiano migliaccio can never be missing from tables.
It is the savoury variant of the sweet migliaccio. But let’s see, what is it? It is a sort of omelette of mixed pasta (ziti lunghi, mafaldine or trenette) enriched with semolina, lard, eggs, mozzarella or fresh caciocavallo cheese, sheep’s milk caciotta or grated pecorino, smoked sausage, pepper, cinnamon and salt. As can be seen from the ingredients listed, migliaccio is a poor man’s dish that recalls the aromas and flavours of days gone by. These were often leftover or discarded ingredients from previous days.
The migliaccio has very ancient origins, even medieval: the name derives from the ingredient in the original recipe now replaced with durum wheat semolina, i.e. millet flour. In Latin, miliaccium stood for the typical millet bread. Prepared with love in all the families on the coast, migliaccio is the main dish of Shrove Tuesday and one cannot help but eat it, whether hot or cold.
For those who want to prepare it at home, here is the authentic recipe, published in 2003 by Giovanni Scala, an expert and connoisseur of Praiano’s history, in his book ‘La memoria nell’immagine, Praiano viaggio nel passato‘ (Memory in the Image, Praiano Journey into the Past). The preparation is not particularly complex. The real secret lies in the very slow cooking.
400 grams of long ziti
200 grams of mafaldine or trenette
100 grams of semolone
3 spoons of lard
600 grams of mozzarella or fresh caciocavallo cheese
200 grams sheep caciotta or grated pecorino cheese
600 grams of smoked sausage
pepper, cinnamon and salt to taste
Start by putting the pot on the stove with 5 litres of water and salt to taste. While waiting for the water to start boiling, beat the 6 eggs in a bowl and add the grated cheese, a little pepper and a pinch of cinnamon, mixing everything well.
When the water boils, you lower the pasta. Halfway through cooking, drain some of the water and slowly pour in the semolina, stirring vigorously to prevent lumps from forming. A tablespoon of lard is then added, stirring continuously.
When the pasta is almost cooked, turn off the heat and pour the contents of the bowl into the pot, mixing everything well. In the meantime, grease a frying pan with lard and pour in half the pasta, spreading it out well. Place slices of mozzarella (or caciocavallo), crumbled sausage and a handful of pecorino on top of the pasta, and cover with the other half of the pasta.
Now place the frying pan on a low heat, taking care to turn the mixture only when a golden crust has formed. Once cooked, leave to cool a little before serving.
Photo © Il migliaccio praianese di Gelsomina Fusco – Resportage