Lasagna di Carnevale, Wines of Puglia
Ciao amici!
Carnevale is in full swing! There are celebrations all over the world in the days leading up to Lent, in what are, or formally were, Catholic countries. Called carnevale in Italy, the word literally meant " a removal of meat" - " meat goodbye!" and began as an acknowledgment that they would soon be faced with 40 days of fasting from meat before Easter. It evolved into a decadent celebration of masked parties and rich foods, before Ash Wednesday reminds us all that "man thou art dust and unto dust thou shall return." In the USA there are numerous " mardi gras" or "Fat Tuesday" celebrations and parades and the largest being in New Orleans.

In Italy, the most famous city celebrating carnevale is Venice, but many of the cities and towns in Italy have their own special and historical carnevale celebrations. From
Cento in the Emilia Romagna region near Ferrara with their month long festival to Ivrea in the Piedmont region with their parade and large food fight with oranges symbolizing their rebellion against feudal lords, they all celebrate the season before Lent and the coming spring.

There are special dishes that are key to their celebrations.
Some of our favorites are a rich, meat filled lasagna from either the Veneto region or Naples and the Campania region. What better way to celebrate than with a delicious meal of homemade pasta layers filled with meats, cheeses and sauces! Below is a recipe for one that we love. Chock full of meat balls, sausage balls, mozzarella and ricotta, this rich lasagna is a celebration of the Napolitano kitchen. It was originally a rich expression of eating well and fully before the privations of Lenten sacrifice and penitence.

Buon carnevale!
Buon appetito!
Gina and Mary

This Month's Italian saying...
"Acqua passata non macina piĆ¹. "
This translates to:
"Water that's flowed past the mill grinds no more."
We have a similar saying: "It's water under the bridge", to indicate that something's firmly in the past.  
Lasagna di Carnevale
The directions are simple: make a simple red sauce, make tiny meatballs, make tiny sausage balls, make fresh pasta. Combine the lasagna layering all the above ingredients, adding pieces of mozzarella and teaspoons of ricotta throughout. Basil leaves are optional.
For the red sauce:
Brown a piece of beef in olive oil. Chop and onion and 2 cloves of garlic and saute in the same pot. Add 2 quarts of tomato puree and sea salt. Return the beef to the pot. Allow to cook 3 hours for flavors to meld.
For the meatballs:
Mix a pound or two of ground beef with 1-2 eggs and 1-2 cups of parmigiano. Form into tiny meatballs 1/2 inch in diameter and brown in olive oil. Form the sausage meat into tiny balls and fry in the same pan .
Make pasta and roll out the sheets very thin. Cook the sheets one or two at a time in boiling salted water for 20 seconds, remove to cold water to stop the cooking. Don't cook all the pasta at the same time and leave it in the water, but make a layer of lasagna before cooking another sheet of pasta. Do it as you need it, another words.
In a pan spread a small amount of the red sauce and some olive oil. Lay pasta sheets down to cover the bottom and begin to layer everything. Finish the top layer with tomato sauce. Drizzle a little olive oil over the top and the sides and bake at 375 until bubbling and browned.
Buon Appetito!! 
Wines from Puglia - Primitivo
Primitivo is a variety of red grape grown across Puglia, but in two particular areas are most suited its growth and success. They are the red soils of the Taranto Province where primitivo is used to make "Primitivo di Manduria" DOC and "Primitivo di Manduria Dolce Naturale" DOCG and the hills of Gioia del Colle and the Bari Province Murgia uplands. These areas have some of the oldest vineyards and are cultivated using the traditional alberello vine-training method which protects the ripening grapes from getting sunburned during the hot Puglia summers and allows for consistent even ripening. The name Primitivo which means early ripening or first to ripen, and as its name implies, it is one of the first grape varieties to be harvested in Italy and this is usually in August.
Its origins in Puglia are interesting. Several years ago, through research at UC - Davis they proved that the grape varieties of Primitivo and Californian Zinfandel were genetically identical and to a Croation variety Crljenak Kastelanski (or Plavina an obscure variety surviving now on the Dalmatian coast and some of its islands). It is possible and believable that the primitivo variety arrived in Puglia from the other side of the Adriatic with the migrations of Ancient Greeks or in the Middle Ages with the fleeing Slavs and Greek-Albanians escaping persecution by the Ottoman Turks.
There are different clones of Primitivo now, adapting to the soil and environment. Some types of soil will give it a spiciness containing pepper and liquorice as well as hints of Mediterranean vegetation. This aromatic, bold full bodied wine is always very pleasantly fruity with hints of cherry, black cherry and raspberry.  
At present Primitivo grapes are used in five Puglian DOC wines: Gioia del Colle, Gravina, Primitivo di Manduria, Lizzano, Terra d'Otranto, and in the Primitivo di Manduria Dolce Naturale DOCG. Find it at your wine stores and try it...maybe with the Lasagna di Carnevale!
Our Culinary Tours to Italy - 2019
We have two openings each in our Piedmont (June 17-24)  and Puglia (September 23 - 30) culinary tours. If you're interested, don't delay! Contact Mary to get the details - or call: 972-342-8308.  
Also - if you're traveling to Florence and looking for a place to stay, call Mary! There are 2 apartments - a one bedroom (sleeps 4) and a two bedroom (sleeps 6) - that are comfortable and well located! We'll put the details on our website this week.
Barbaresco a wine village in Piedmont and the surrounding grape vines 
Our Culinary Tours to Italy - 2020
Dates are announced for next year! Contact Mary to reserve your spots - or call: 972-342-8308.  
Tuscany: May 23 - 30; October 3-10; October 10-17

Piedmont:  June 1-8; June 9 - 16

Puglia: October 20-27 

Veneto: September 22-29

Gina Stipo and Mary Stipo Potter | Ecco La Cucina| 1-972-342-8308| Email | Website