While the little ones get ready for the feast, the mothers and the grandmothers dedicate their time to preparing this typical dish of the Amalfi culinary tradition.
By Anna Volpicelli, cover photo Gabriele Cavaliere
Children in masks run through the narrow streets of Amalfi villages, confetti flies in the sky. Some mischief, some smiles, and a bit of surprise bring light-heartedness to our lives. Carnival is par excellence, the feast of joy. The days leading up to this celebration in the homes of mothers and grandmothers prepare sweets and dishes to commemorate this event. Among the various recipes that animate the tables, one, in particular, is handed down from generation to generation: the Migliaccio praianese.
Inspired by the Roman culinary tradition, which in the Middle Ages conquered the Amalfi Coast, its name derives from millacium (millet), the main ingredient used in ancient times. “There are two types of savory Migliaccio, the variant of the sweet ones, on the Amalfi Coast, that of Furore where millet has been replaced by polenta and that of Praiano where pasta is used,” explains Gabriele Cavaliere, founder of Officine Zephiro, a communications agency, and author of Q.B. storie d’amore e di sapore Della Costa D’Amalfi (Officine Zephiro, 2020). With time, however, Praiano’s recipe has gained more recognition. “Furore has always been a town more closed to the outside world – Cavaliere says – Praiano, on the other hand, has always been more exposed to tourism and exchanges with the outside world. For this reason, today the tradition of Praiano is more remembered”.
Migliaccio Praianese, photo by Pelagos Associazione – Praiano
Mainly consumed on Shrove Tuesday, “but in general it is consumed for the whole duration of Carnival,” Cavaliere emphasizes. The preparation of this dish requires prolonged cooking that can reach up to two hours. The classic recipe sees long ziti combined with mafaildine or trinette (a type of pasta). To which must be added pork fat, eggs, mozzarella cheese or fresh caciocavallo cheese, sheep caciotta, smoked sausage, and aromas such as pepper and cinnamon. “The recipe then varies from family to family. It is a typical dish of the Carnival also because of the presence of pork since between January and February in the Amalfi Coast, the slaughter of the pig takes place. The meat then slaughtered is also used to prepare this dish”, continues Cavaliere.
The testimony of Giovanni Scala
To respect the authentic and original tradition of this dish, we have reported the recipe written by Giovanni Scala, a critical historian of the culture of Praiano, photographer, who died in April 2019, in his book Memoria nell’Immagine – Praiano Viaggio nel passato by Giovanni Scala (finished printing July 2003). As Scala writes in his book: “On this dish, there are variations as for pasta. Some use only spaghetti with a lot of semolina, putting some extra eggs in the end. Each family has its recipe. Everyone says: As I do it, nobody does it.”
Recipe: Il migliaccio (Typical Praianese Carnival dish)
400g of long ziti
200g of mafaldine or trinette
100g of semolone
3 spoons of lard
600g of mozzarella or fresh caciocavallo cheese
200g sheep caciotta or grated pecorino cheese
600 of smoked sausage
Put the pot on the stove with five liters of water and salt to taste, and while it comes to a boil, prepare in a bowl mix beaten eggs, the grated cheese, a little pepper, and a pinch of cinnamon, mix everything and set aside.
As soon as the water comes to a boil, boil the pasta in half and drain part of the water, put the pot back on the heat with the pasta in the remaining water, pour in the semolina very slowly to avoid lumps forming, add one tablespoon of lard and stir with a wooden spoon.
When the pasta and semolina are almost cooked, turn off the heat and, once the boil is over, pour the contents of the terrine into the pot and stir everything for one minute. Prepare a reasonably large baking pan, preferably one with a bottom that does not stick (in the past, a galvanized copper pan was used) spread one tablespoon of lard.
Pour half of the dough into the prepared baking pan and flatten it evenly. Arrange the mozzarella or caciocavallo cheese slices, the crumbled sausage, a handful of pecorino cheese, and cover everything with the remaining dough, flattening it well on top.
When the work is done, put the pan on the fire and fry over low heat, moving the pan from time to time to form a golden crust. Prepare a lid or a flat plate larger than the pan’s diameter, place it on the pan and turn the “Migliaccio” upside down.
Immediately after slide, it upside down into the pan where a little more lard has been put and cook it on the other side.
Once cooked and browned, let it rest a little, cut it into wedges and serve.