Strascinati, a tradition of Cascia
Cascia tugs on my ancestral heart strings. Located in Umbria, the green heart of Italy, Cascia was the home of my Great Grandfather. It's a picturesque vision of Italy, quite remote and in a valley surrounded by mountains. One of my favorite things about Cascia is that it was home to St Rita, who is revered in my family and also has the best tag line of all the saints: The Saint of the Impossible. Cascia houses a beautiful sanctuary of Saint Rita and if you ever find yourself in the area it is certainly worth a visit. One of my fondest memories is an afternoon trip to the shrine with my parents and relatives in Italy.
So why all of this about Cascia you ask? Well, the dish that I am going to share with you today is a sausage and bacon dream called Stracinati, or if you are an Italian-American with Umbrian roots, you might know it as Straagheeenaaaaaaddddd! Growing up, we had this often and while I have been planning to put this on the blog for awhile, before I did, I had to confer with one of my cousins back in Italy to confirm my suspicions about this recipe. Stracinati, is not a dish you will often find in restaurants or even throughout Italy. For awhile, I wondered if it was just some crazy meat infused dream that my grandmother made up, but a quick chat with my cousin confirmed with delight that it is in-fact a very localized dish from the homeland, as my cousin said, "It is a peculiar tradition that travelled to the US as the Pontani's went west." While I was preparing this today, I was wonderfully transported to Italy, the beautiful smell of the smoked bacon crackling on my stovetop was so reminiscent of trips Umbria, in the winter and the fall, when the air is glorious with the crisp smokey smell of fireplaces burning and ovens cooking up delicious meals 24/7. Now I know why, everyone is making stracinati!
Now, of course, as with so many dishes when they travelled to America, there have been some modifications made. Strascinati is in fact a type of pasta and when my family was in Italy, they were likely eating their strascinati with strascinati. However, after their west ward journey, somewhere along the line my grandmother began to use penne and my mom took it further down the line and uses fusilli. Most likely these substitutions were originally made because Strascinati pasta is not widely available here and sometimes, there aren't enough hours in the day to brush your own hair let alone make your own pasta. Personally, I'm a fusilli girl with this recipe. I love how the ridges in the pasta nestle the sausage and bacon and deliver them right to my mouth. But I do intend to try this with some fresh strascinati one day.
This dish is not for the faint of heart, it's decadent, delicious and probably about 7 million calories. But life is for living and good food is for eating so save this one for a special occasion or make it a special occasion by making this.
What Do I Need?
1 Pound Smoked Bacon cut into small squares (if you have an Italian specialty store, grab pancetta affumicata. It is Italian smoked bacon, which is prepared differently that American smoked bacon, but fear not, you can use American smoked bacon and have a delicious result as well. I'm doing it right now.)
1 Pound Pork Sausage removed from casing
1 Pound Fusilli
3 Eggs beaten
1/2 Cup of Milk
1/2 Cup Pecorino Romano cheese grated
S & P
In a medium sized bowl mix your eggs, salt, pepper, pecorino and milk, mix well and set aside. I like to do this first so that the liquids can come to room temperature while you cook everything else. So prep this and set aside!
Next, In a large saute pan, heat a small dash of oil and saute your sausage and bacon. Only use a small amount of oil as your bacon and sausage is going to throw fat! Be sure to break up the sausage as you go and scrape up all the deliciousness from the bottom of the pan as you stir, cook this for about 20 - 25 minutes over medium heat until the meat is fully cooked. While you are doing this, bring salted water to boil for your pasta and begin to cook when you have about ten minutes left on your bacon and sausage.
When your pasta is done, drain it and add it to your large saute pan with the sausage and bacon, mixing well. Be sure to turn down the heat to low on your stovetop at this point, now slowly and steadily add in your egg mixture, mixing the pasta while you do. The egg is going to lightly cook from the heat of the pasta, so be sure to keep mixing until the egg mixture thickens up a bit, it should do it rather quickly in about 3 - 4 minutes. You'll know your egg mixture is cooked when it is more creamy then gooey runny eggy! Once it is cooked top with some more cheese and serve, because, we've gone this far. Don't stop with the overindulgence now!
TAKE NOTE: The better your bacon and sausage, the better this dish will be! When using American bacon, I am a big fan of Whole Foods 356 Smokehouse Bacon , and as far as sausage goes, hit your local butcher. I love to use sweet Italian. Also, set a timer, don't overcook your pasta, it matters!!!!!