Spaghetti Alla Norma a Modo Mio (Spaghetti Alla Norma My Way)

Yesterday was Cleaning Day and I hate Cleaning Day! Perhaps I should qualify that: I hate the process but I love the result. There is nothing like the smell of a freshly dusted and polished house or the feel of a newly washed floor underfoot. Anyway, since it was a hard day cleaning, it had to be an easy day cooking and nothing is easier than pasta, in my book.

A quick look in the fridge revealed an aubergine begging to be eaten and a plan began to form. This recipe is based on a recipe from an Italian recipe book, but I tweaked it with the addition of bacon bits. My daughter has the firm belief that there’s nothing that can’t be improved with the addition of bacon, and I tend to agree. If you want the authentic recipe, just leave out the bacon. The ingredients are enough for two hungry people as a main meal. If you serve this as a primo, Italian style, then it would probably serve three or four people.

Ingredients :

1 aubergine
1 onion
100g bacon bits
250g spaghetti
Tomato passata
A few fresh basil leaves finely chopped
Salt
A small mozzarella ball (about 125g)
Chilli pepper to taste

Peel and slice the aubergines in thick slices. Salt them and leave them to draw for twenty minutes.
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In the meantime, peel and dice the onion and the bacon if it isn’t already diced. Prepare the basil leaves and keep them aside.
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Fry the bacon and onion together. You can add a little oil if needed. I always fry my onion until it is soft as I don’t like it crunchy, but you do it the way you like it. It should be golden and delicious. Mmmmm….can you smell that delicious onion and bacon smell?
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Now prepare the aubergine. Rinse and dry the slices well. Cut them into squares and fry them in a little hot oil. They will absorb the oil. When they have browned all over, drain them on kitchen paper. Be careful not to let them brown too much!
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When they are ready, add them to the pan with the bacon and onion. Add the passata, salt and chilli pepper to taste and allow to cook until the brinjal is cooked through and the sauce is rich and glossy.
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Now prepare the pasta.
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You need a large pot because pasta needs to cook in lots of water. None of this shoving it in a tiny pot. You need one this size and the water must be boiling with a rolling boil before you put the pasta in. Add lots of salt to the water. According to one italian saying, the pasta water should be as salty a the sea.

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Add the spaghetti to the pot in one piece. Do not break it or you’ll spoil the chance to eat it like an italian, slowly slurping in those stray strands that wouldn’t twirl on the fork. The strands slowly sink into the water as they soften and you can help them with a fork, turning and mixing them slowly. Put the pot lid on to bring the water back to the boil quickly, but watch the pot as it boils over easily. Once you have a rolling boil again, you can remove the lid. Use a long fork or spaghetti spoon to agitate and turn the pasta now and then while it cooks. This will help prevent the strands from sticking to each other. Cook until the spaghetti is cooked enough for you. It’s a personal thing. Al dente for most Italians means that there must still be a hard bite in the centre of the pasta. I don’t like that and cook until that bite is gone but the pasta is still relatively firm. About 14 minutes for this pasta.

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While the pasta is cooking, dice the mozzarella into small dices.
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Drain the pasta in a colander, keeping aside a little of the cooking water to add to your sauce if it’s too thick or too little and needs extra liquid. This is a trick all Italian mammas know and use to make a sauce stretch. It also helps make a sauce creamier. Put the spaghetti back in the pot and slowly add the hot pasta sauce, the diced mozzarella and the chopped basil, mixing gently. Add only enough to give the pasta a generous coating, not to drown it in sauce. I used about half the sauce and froze the rest for another meal.

Serve with a little grated parmesan. Buon appetito!
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Double trouble, double blessings, plus one = triple blessings!

That’s right. Twins! This celebration is one of the best. My daughter-in-law is expecting twin girls. Sadly, the distance between us means that we won’t get to hold them and love them as much as we would like. But we will be sharing in the joy and excitement of the arrival of these two precious babies. And we pray that they, their siblings and their parents may be blessed and sustained throughout their lives. Their arrival turns a family with two children into a family with four children. Yikes!

But wait. There’s more! My daughter, who lives near us in Italy, is expecting her first child. For the first time I get to share in the pregnancy. We feel incredibly blessed to be able to share in her pregnancy, seeing scan pictures and hearing about her experiences. And we know we will share in this baby’s life in a meaningful way. We are truly blessed and very thankful!

Life Celebration # 18 An Italian Spring Sunday Afternoon

That view - food for the soul.
That view – food for the soul.

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Italian Sunday afternoon family entertainment - take the children for a walk anywhere public. the more people who see you, the better!
Italian Sunday afternoon family entertainment – take the children for a walk anywhere public. the more people who see you, the better!
Time to go home. That breeze was a little nippy!
Time to go home. That breeze was a little nippy!
Admiring our new ride
Admiring our new ride
Close-up view.
Close-up view.

Here’s to spring, warmth, sunshine and blue skies. We in the Northern hemisphere could all do with a little more of those.

How did you spend your Sunday afternoon? What did you celebrate today?

Life Celebration #17 Small Pleasures

Simple things -simple pleasures.

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A pile of warm, fragrant ironing waiting to be put away.

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Love it or hate it, there’s always a sense of achievement when you survey the results of the last hour’s work.

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What’s your take on ironing? Love or hate? Or are you an inveterate non-ironer like my daughter who refuses to iron all but the absolute looks-like -it-was-dragged-through-a-bush-if-not-ironed?

Life Celebration #16 Snow!

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I have to admit that I love snow and the occasional snowy day! It’s true that where I live in the foothills of the alps, we don’t often get deep snow or long snowy periods. For the most part, the snow stays on the nearby peaks, giving them their winter brightness. On Friday, we woke up to a winter wonderland. My heart leapt at the beauty while I was going to market. The tree branches were outlined in snow – there was absolutely no wind to disturb it.

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From my balcony, the surrounding hill had a glistening icing-sugar dusting.

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The church spire rose proudly above the snowy roof tops.

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Sadly, the snow is almost all gone already. Only the coldest corners of the garden harbour a few sad heaps. I’m hoping for a little more in the coming days!
How do you feel about the snow? Love it, or hate it?

Life Celebration #15 medical treatment

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Yes, it does sound like a strange thing to celebrate, but when the pain of a tooth abcess strikes, you suddenly become extremely grateful for the antibiotics that diminish the pain, and the expertise of a good dentist as to what needs to be done.

My journey with this abcess is not yet finished, but it has given me pause for thought and made me realise how fortunate I am to be living in a time and place where treatment is available and mostly affordable. I can’t imagine walking around for weeks with the kind of pain an abcess causes! When the pain hit, I felt just like the poor teddy above – a little scuffed at the edges and in need of a big bandage to hold my jaw together!

Here’s to better days and doctors and dentists everywhere. They do a sterling job!

Life Celebration #14 – Glorious Nature!

When the warm fön wind breathes its warm breath over Piemonte, we stretch our winter weary limbs, drinking in the blue skies and green pastures. All too soon, the skies will be grey and glowering, heavy with rain and snow. Today, though, today is clear and warm and bright. What a privilege to have beautiful places to visit nearby!

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Today is blue and green and winter bright.
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Can these be winter meadows, so verdant before us?
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Cool, crisp and clear winter streams.
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The Roman bridge in Fondo. This village at the end of a narrowing valley doesn’t get sunshine in winter. “Fondo” means bottom or end.
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How many feet have trodden this path since the bridge was built? I wonder!
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Even the huts protecting the rubbish carts have mossy slate rooves. Delightful!
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On a sunny winter day, icicles hanging from rocks at the edge of the road glitter and shine, fascinating me.

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Do you have special places to visit? What do you do on  sunny winter day?

Life Celebration #13 – A Year of flying with WordPress

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for my blog. Thank you helper monkeys! I would probably not have looked for these statistics otherwise! Now I’m thrilled with the number 980. Wow! I’m going to aim for 1000 next year!

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 980 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 16 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.