Recipe, text, and photos excerpted with permission from Pasta Grannies: Comfort Cooking by Vicky Bennison, photos by Emma Lee, published by Hardie Grant Books September 2022, RRP $32.50 Hardcover. Click here for a book purchase link.
Franchina lost her mother when she was nine years old; she died at the age of 43 from an embolism. As the eldest of five children, Franchina took on all the household duties, including cooking for her family. She had no idea how to make pasta and a kindly neighbour showed her how. “You just have to get on with it, don’t you. I had learn quickly.”
Franchina went to work on a building site; female manual laborers were common until the 1970s in Italy. Franchina’s job was to be a human wheelbarrow and move cement. One day, the owner of the tobacco factory where she worked called her over. “I thought, oh no! What have I done?” He asked her to step on the tobacco weighing scales; she was 48 kilos. The bag of cement was 50 kilos. “We cannot have this,” said the owner and moved her to sorting tobacco leaves of which there were 5 grades. She was so nimble, she’d finish her pile and move on to help her fellow sorters. She finished her story with a smile and a shrug. “I don’t have much, so it makes me happy to help others.”
These days, she is a widow who tends a collection of animals, a huge vegetable garden and 300 olive trees. She makes her own little goat’s cheeses, which gently age on a hanging flat basket in her airy summer kitchen.
When we arrived for filming, Franchina had already prepared us a breakfast of potato and goat’s cheese croquettes, deep-fried in oil over an open fire; she was totally unconcerned by the potential hazard, and they were delicious. The purpose of our visit, however, was to film her making fusilli with a goat ragú. Goat is a popular meat in the Cilento region where Franchina lives, “but my kids don’t like it. They don’t like fusilli either, so I’m pleased to be making this for you”.
Traditionally, a castrated goat, reared for meat, would be slaughtered at home and one could not guarantee the blood had been drained from the animal properly. Thus, this two-step method of cooking the meat evolved to improve its flavor and tenderness. You can use mutton or lamb instead.
Recipe excerpted with permission from Pasta Grannies: Comfort Cooking by Vicky Bennison, photos by Emma Lee, published by Hardie Grant Books September 2022, RRP $32.50 Hardcover.
Edible East Bay editor’s note: This recipe was tested in Oakland using young goat meat from a local halal market, where the cook skipped the first step of boiling the meat in water with herbs. We also made other slight adaptations to the text as it appears in the book.
For the boiled goat ragù
1kg (2 pounds, 4 ounces) goat meat, cut into 3 cm (1 1/4-inch) chunks
1 onion, quartered
1 sprig rosemary
3 sprigs flat leaf parsley
3 teaspoons salt
For the tomato sugo
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 carrot, finely diced
2 celery sticks, finely diced, with leaves if possible
1 large onion, finely diced
1 teaspoon salt
100ml (3 1/2 fluid ounces or a scant 1/2 cup) dry white wine
400g (14 oz) passata (tomato purée)
For the pasta
Pasta Grannies includes the recipe for making your own pasta. Edible East Bay suggests using dry pasta if you don’t have the book or don’t want to make your own.
1pound dry fusilli
Grated hard goat’s cheese or sheep’s milk pecorino
Place the meat, onion, herbs, and salt in a large saucepan, casserole, or Dutch oven, and cover everything with plenty of water. Bring to a simmer and regularly skim off the protein scum, which forms on the water’s surface. Keep cooking the goat until no more foam forms and the meat is cooked; this will take about 45 minutes. [Remove meat and drain it before adding to the tomato sauce.]
To make the tomato sauce: Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over a medium heat. Add the vegetables and let them soften for about 10 minutes before adding the cooked goat meat. Season with salt. Pour in the wine and let it evaporate before adding the passata. Leave this mixture to bubble gently for 40 minutes while you make your pasta. [If using packaged pasta, cook according to package directions shortly before serving.]
Remove the goat meat from the tomato sauce and serve it as the main course with a salad. Ladle the tomato sauce over the fusilli and toss them together. Serve with plenty of grated goat’s cheese (or sheep’s milk pecorino) and chile flakes to taste.