Tag Archives: carbonara by joshua lawrence

Lentil Tales of Autumn (And Sausage Sunsets)

Salsiccia con Lenticchie (Sausage with lentils), a guest post by Gillian Nevers

I used to wonder why I started to crave sausages and lentils in the fall, just as the leaves on the trees began to change color. For a while I thought it was because of their palate – lentils range in colors from yellow to red-orange to green to brown and, even black – or their earthy taste. Then, one day while looking through photos taken on one of many trips to the Abruzzo, I came upon several taken at an autumn picnic next to a small, wetland refuge near Capestrano. I think it was the day after Emily’s birthday, but I’m not sure. However, I am sure that among all the wonderful things we ate that day, my favorite was the salsiccia con lenticchie, prepared by my dear friend, the late Linda Mantini.

Linda and Dan near Capestrano, 2010 picnic

We worked off a wonderful lunch of party left-overs, with a stroll around a little lake, attempting to identify a variety of water birds. Then we drove into Capestrano for cafe and gelato. While the rest of the family sat outside the bar soaking up what was left of the afternoon sun, Silvia and I walked across the square to a small shop. It was one of those dark little places you enter through a swinging tile curtain. An unmemorable place, except for the calendar of Mussolini displayed along with pope and kitten calendars, and a bushel of brown lentils on the floor in front of the counter. Silvia insisted on buying five kilos of the lentils for me. Knowing I was flying home in a few days, and worried about luggage weight restrictions, I protested. When Silvia said she would keep half, I agreed. Now, I regret not having taking all five kilos, as those lentils were some of the best I’ve every eaten and would have been worth the extra baggage charge!

Emily below CapestranoBack home, I searched through my Italian cookbooks for a recipe that came close to Linda’s. Everywhere I looked, the ingredients were things I could source locally, except for the sausage—it’s hard to find a coil of luganega, especially on short-notice, in Madison, Wisconsin. So, I substituted Italian sausage—a mix of hot and mild—from Fraboni’s, a family-owned Italian deli that’s been in Madison as long as I can remember (when I gave birth to Joshua forty-plus years ago, my friend Kathy smuggled prosciutto, crusty bread and gorgonzola into my hospital room, so I wouldn’t starve)! I served my version of salsiccia con lenticchie to friends who would later join us on a hiking and cooking trip in the Abruzzo.

Linda-inspired pasta & lentils

Every fall, when I get the urge to make salsiccia con lenticchie, it seems to strike me on the day I MUST eat it. So, I have to use what sausage is close at hand. In addition to Italian sausage, I’ve tried American brats, local pork sausage, and Spanish Chorizo. All add their own character to the dish, but no matter the sausage I use, my version never comes close to Linda’s.

Here’s my improvised version:

  • 3/4 pound brown lentils
  • 2 ounces chopped pancetta or smoked bacon
  • 1 small chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, finally chopped
  • 4 to 8 pure pork sausages – If you can find luganega, that’s the best.


Soak the lentils for about an hour. Fry pancetta or bacon until the fat melts. Add onion, garlic and celery and cook until soft. Add the drained lentils and cover with water. Simmer for 25 minutes, or until tender. In the meantime, roast, fry or grill the sausage.

Serve the sausages on a bed of lentils.

(Editor’s note…if you want it spicy, add hot peppers, and if you want to prepare long before serving, cut the sausage into inch-long chunks and mix into the pot of lentils, cover and keep warm until serving).

Carbonara and Muse

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Oh, by the way, hospital food is not good the world over, Silvia and I snuck prosciutto, good bread and gorgonzola into the hospital when Sofia and Emily were born, it’s still my ultimate comfort food, 42 years on. – Joshua

Lentils, Sausage, Fall Sun and Abruzzo Mountain Air Are Good For You

A Plate of Salsiccie e Lenticchi and il Gran Sasso

Carbonara and Muse

A Summer Take on Italy Most Classic Garlic Dish

Aglio, Olio and Pommodorini

Aglio, olio e pepperoncino (garlic, olive oil and hot pepper) is one of the most sincere and dangerous pasta dishes. Dangerous because so many people shy away from garlic and even I shy away from the hottest of the hot stuff. But also perilous because in its simplicity to make and to devour, a plate of spaghetti doused with these two ingredients lightly simmered in olive oil can tempt more than more complex and expensive pastas.

Simmering Aglio Olio and Pepperoncino

I’m always hesitant to mess with near perfection, but in the summer there’s always another ingredient laying there, calling to you. The heat makes risk taking just that much easier.

Slow-baked tomatoes ready to jump

My friend Fabrizio C was playing with fire a few days ago (and only our tongues got slightly singed). Piccadilly and datterini tomatoes had come into their own on the Abruzzo coast when he invited a dozen friends over to his terrace for dinner. His twist was adding slow-baking breaded piccadilly cherry tomatoes (to dry them out a bit) at the end off the garlic, hot pepper and oil process.

Mixing it up

Slowly baking (about 45 minutes) and breading tomatoes dried them out while keeping just the right amount of juice and sweetness in to keep them slightly chewy but not as much as the al dente durum wheat pasta in which they were hiding.

Friends, tomatos and pepperoncino

This being summer we followed up with local vegetables – roast sweet peppers and above all some of the last great fresh fava beans of the Summer (to be eaten right out of the pod and accompanied by good pecorino cheese) as we washed it all down with some of this years Pecorino white and rich Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo rosè wines from the valleys between Pescara and Sulmona. The wine kept our conversation and appetite for summer dinners growing well into the night.

Friends, tomatos and pepperoncino

For those of you reading this on Facebook or elsewhere, it was first published on carbonara.wordpress.com


Aglio, olio and pomodorini

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Want to try making aglio olio and peperoncino and don’t want to look for it on the web? My first and favourite guide is “The Classic Italian Cook Book: The Art of Italian Cooking and the Italian Art of Eating” by Marcella Hazan. My hitchiker’s guide to Italian food.

Roast peppers

Also my friend Eleonor’s blog http://www.aglioolioepeperoncino.com/ is inspired.

Garlic on FoodistaGarlic

Don’t Ask for Whom the Bell Tolls in Pisa

Just relax at the Antica Trattoria il Campano

Antica Trattoria "Il Campano", Pisa

The end of our twenty-four hour getaway to Pisa, last autumn, was the tastiest part of the trip. It was sunny, and unusually warm for November in Tuscany. I had finished my telecommuting obligations the evening before and met Silvia after she had said her goodbyes to her fellow historians. As we walked through the maze of little squares and streets around the market between Borgo Stretto and the University, on the way to our hotel, we spotted a restaurant in a small medieval townhouse, with four tables outside. We had two hours before our train to Rome left, and since an hour to enjoy lunch at an outside table was attraction enough to stop, we decided to take our chances on the food.

We soon discovered that we had nothing to worry about. Antica Trattoria il Campano had the feel of a good, small restaurant in a university town. Which makes sense, as the trattoria takes its name from its previous location, under the nearby bell tower (“campano”), that historically signaled the beginning of classes at the University.

Pappa al Pomodoro in Pisa

Our waitress, professional and friendly, took our orders and guided us through the meal, all the while making us feel like we were in charge. The menu, which varies according to seasonal availability, had a tempting mix of traditional Tuscan dishes and variations on the same. Silvia, nostalgic for the years she studied in Florence and Pisa, ordered pappa al pomodoro, a simple Tuscan dish made from stale bread, tomatoes, olive oil, basil and garlic. She used to make it for dinner parties when we were getting to know each other. I snuck a few fork full’s and was immediately flooded with intoxicating memories of those days. I, as always, couldn’t resist ordering the first thing I saw with artichokes – a fresh salad built around thinly sliced raw artichokes and pecorino cheese.

The rest of the menu was so tempting that we also ordered seconds: Silvia a hot eggplant antipasto, and I, venison raviol

Venison Ravioli at Il Campano, Pisa

i. The sauce for the ravioli was made from fresh sheep cheese from Pistoia (“Raviggiolo di pecora pistoiese”) and red currants. I still daydream about that sauce!

Il Campano is famous for two other things–– grilled meats and a huge wine list (which is what you would expect from a restaurant that fills its walls with bottles). We decided to forgo ordering a bottle of wine, but chose one of four reds sold by the glass or carafe –– a Morellino di Scansano produced by Agrucellina. It’s a full bodied wine with hints of currants and a little pepper – a house wine good enough to make me forget there was a wine list.

A word of warning: the menu changes from time to time, so don’t expect to have what we had. If you’re a little adventurous, chan

ces are you will be pleased. Portions are not huge, but big enough to only need two choices to feel full. In fact, if the portions were any larger, the food would not be as beautiful.

Artichoke salad front, eggplant antipasto back

– Joshua Lawrence

Antica Trattoria Il Campano

Via Cavalca 19, Centro, 56126

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Silvia and her Pappa al Pomodoro at Il Campano

Venison on Foodista

Red Currant on FoodistaRed Currant

Artichoke on FoodistaArtichoke