Last month I was invited to participate as a guest at the gastronomic event “Rapallo del gusto”, a series of meeting focused on the promotion of local products and traditional cuisine.
If you know my passion for everything “stuffed” you can imagine how happy I was when I discovered that the theme of the meeting I would attend was stuffed vegetables and savory pies!
It was a beautiful morning among friends watching and commenting eighty years old Signora Silvia, owner of the historic “Farinotto do Caroggio” of Rapallo (fainotto is a typical Ligurian eatery with wood ovens), preparing live her stuffed vegetables.
Her frank, precise, quick gestures told, more than words, the story of a lady who for decades woke up at 4 in the morning to prepare them with the freshest vegetables and have them ready and freshly baked (in the wood oven) every day.
But Lady Silvia is also the emblem of those who with determination preserves the culinary traditions of Liguria – stuffed vegetables yes, but also polpettone, farinata, panissa, savory pies and castagnaccio – and makes them accessible to everyone (granny memories annexed ) even in this hectic and timeless life.
It was an honor to meet her and a real blast to see her cooking!
The event gave me the opportunity, also, to rediscover the historic open-air market of Piazza Venezia (funny indeed, it reminded me, in small, the market of Venezia) and to wander among the colorful and overflowing fruit and vegetable stalls, discovering old vegetables just harvested and taken downstream by farmers that I had never seen before.
I also learned that on Saturday morning, around 11 o’clock, the farmer who produces the true “presciunseua” (the Genoese fresh cheese) comes down from the mountains. In less than an hour, it’s all over. I know this quite well because while I was on stage chatting, I saw him arrive with his Ape Cross among the housewives eagerly waiting for him who stormed him. Off course nothing remained for me few time later.
Rapallo was also the occasion for a very pleasant chat about the history and traditions of Ligurian cuisine, in particular about the art of stuffing food, with the journalist Sergio Rossi, author of many culinary monographs and my personal point of reference in the Ligurian gastronomic culture.
What has this experience left me? The beautiful feeling of being in many people to still love the cuisine and the products of our territory and the active participation of the public in the square was the proof; the colors and the sounds of a market square alive and teeming with small farmers and local producers; the proud smiles of the farmers behind their boxes of freshly picked vegetables; and above all, the renewed desire to continue to tell the Ligurian cuisine and our territory to not miss anything.
Fainotto do Caroggio in Rapallo
Lady Silvia stuffed vegetables
After this experience I had to share with you my recipe for stuffed vegetables.
It is not like Lady Silvia recipe. She prepared a filling based on ricotta cheese, herbs, Parmesan cheese and eggs. It’s a really good stuffing matching with all kind of vegetable. When I just got home I tried it by stuffing the small local eggplants I had bought at the market.
Mine, instead, is mainly based on vegetables: a little potato and the pulp of the vegetables that I will fill, onion and zucchini most of the time.
A tip: if you also fill peppers, do not put them in the filling otherwise their taste would cover all the other flavors. If, on the other hand, you fill eggplants (the small and round ones are the local Genovese variety), their flesh is excellent to enrich the stuffing.
- 3 (ab. 10 oz) potatoes
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to grease the pan
- 2 (ab. 7 oz), medium-sized white onions, finely chopped
- 6 (ab. 1 lb) small zucchini
- 4 (ab. 1 lb) round medium-sized white onions
- 2 small sweet peppers
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- 120 g (ab. 4,5 oz) mortadella, finely chopped (optional)
- 2 teaspoons fresh marjoram leaves, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped
- 1 cup of breadcrumbs
- Wash potatoes, put them with the skin in a pot of cold water and boil until they are tender (about 35 minutes).
- Brown the chopped onions in a pan with 3 tablespoons of EVO oil over a low heat for 10 minutes or until translucent.
- Boil zucchini in salted water for ab. 6 minutes (they must remain firm), drain, cut in half lengthwise and remove the inner flesh so as to obtain small boats. Finley chop the pulp with a knife and set aside.
- Peel and boil onions in salted water for ab. 10 minutes (they must remain firm), drain, cut in half longwise and gently peel the layers in order to get many small bowls. Choose the thickest and most intact ones. Finely chop the remaining pulp and set aside.
- Clean the sweet pepper, remove the leaf stalk and the seeds and cut longwise so to obtain also in this case small bowls.
- Add the pulp of zucchini and onions in the pan with the stewed onions and sauté for 5 minutes.
- Drain the boiled potatoes, peel and smash still warm.
- In a bowl add potatoes, the mixture of fried vegetables, the eggs, Parmesan cheese, mortadella, marjoram leaves and parsley. Mix well, taste and season with salt and pepper.
- Preheat the oven to 200 º C (425°F – gas mark 7). Line a large baking tray with baking paper and grease lightly with olive oil. Fill zucchini, onions and peppers with the vegetable stuffing and place them side by side in the baking tray. Sprinkle with plenty of breadcrumbs, 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of salt.
- Bake for ab. 1 hour or until the surface is golden brown. Let the stuffed vegetables cool down and serve warm or at room temperature. The day after they are always tastier!
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[…] if you like baked vegetables you can also try to cook my Ligurian stuffed vegetables or my stuffed zucchini […]