Once again the Italians put together a beautiful evening rich with their culture. Their warmth and hospitality always shine at their events. Tonight they cooked three delicious pasta dishes for us in the colors of their flag: green pesto, a rich red Sicilian eggplant pasta, and a white rice dish with two cheeses. The last two were the best and I am including the recipes below.
The theme of the night was music celebrating Pavarotti and 50 years of Volare, a popular Italian song that’s been sung by many bands including the Gypsy Kings and Dean Martin.
Wow. There is some incredible talent in that group. They all sung together, but two of the ladies took the microphones and sung Volare and several other songs. Their voices were beautiful and powerful – it was like sitting through a concert. They danced in traditional red, white, and green costumes, then, of course, we all joined them for a long evening celebrating together.
Many of the door prizes were handmade which is always a very special touch and they had many treats for us to buy as well.
I was happy to sit at a very mixed up table with a couple of my best Turkish friends, some other Turkish ladies that I don’t know as well, a German lady, and a few Americans. We all had fun despite some of the language barriers. It went long which is perfectly in tune with the Italian culture that knows how to relax and play and generally enjoys a long stretched out evening. I danced until 11 with them. My Turkish friend, Meral, and I were the last non-Italians there, dancing and celebrating. It’s wonderful to be a part of that.
I feel like I’ve really grown up here. Relaxed a little, mellowed a lot, and have grown in confidence. This is a good place for me. I love these people.
400 grams of pasta (types: Pennette or Maccheroni)
600 ml (just under 1 bottle) of tomato sauce
1 large eggplant
Salted Ricotta cheese or grated Parmesan cheese
1 garlic clove
Extra virgin olive oil
Cut the eggplant into small cubes of about 2cms, sprinkle with salt and put in a sieve with a with a weight on top (e.g. a heavy pan or recipe book) and leave for an hour to drain.
Fry the eggplant cubes in plenty of cooking oil.
Brown the garlic in a pan with extra virgin olive oil. Add the tomato sauce, a few fresh basil leaves and some salt, and cook for 20 minutes.
Bring about 1.5litres of water to the boil and add a handful of salt; when the water boils add the pasta and cook for approximately 10 minutes. Drain and add to the pan with the ready cooked tomato sauce.
Pour the pasta into a serving dish and dust with a handful of salted ricotta cheese (ideally) or Parmesan cheese.
200 g of butter
250 g of mozzarella cheese
300 g of Gouda cheese or other savoury cheese
125 g grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and Pepper
Boil the rice in salted water and cook to just under normal cooking time – be careful not to overcook – then add the butter and mix it in until it melts completely. Separately mix the egg-yolks in a bowl with salt and pepper, then stir into the rice, adding, at the end, grated Parmesan cheese.
Butter an oven-dish and pour a part of this mixture, then alternate thin layers of rice with layers of Gouda and Mozzarella cheeses. Dust the final layer with grated Parmesan cheese. Cook in a pre-heated over at 220° C (428° Fahrenheit) for approximately 40 minutes or until the surface has become a crusty and golden.