When it comes to food, celebrating New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day need not be the same old thing if you are willing to adopt a culinary tradition from another culture. For instance, I love to make a Sicilian dish for our New Year’s Eve dinner, especially when the dish has as colorful — so to speak — a name as this one.
Sicilians love vulgar names for their favorite dishes. The name of this rough-and-ready preparation, lasagna cacate di Módica, “shitty” lasagna from Módica, is a dish from the beautiful Baroque town of Módica in Sicily’s province of Ragusa. The name is mild compared to some names I’ve come across, but it is in no way eponymous, as the name may be a reference to its inelegant appearance.
When I make this lusty lasagna guests can’t stop eating it. This recipe is very authentic, too, because I ask you, as they would do in Sicily, especially in the smaller towns and villages of the interior, to make your own pasta casarecchia, homemade pasta.
Traditionally, this lasagna is served as a piatto unico, a single main course dinner plate on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day and a little ditty gives you an idea of its purpose for the upcoming year:
“Lasagni cacati e vinu a cannata Bon sangu fannu pri tutta l‘annata.” (“Shitty lasagna and wine by the pitcher, Make good blood for the whole of the year.”)
This pasta is made with fine white flour and not the semolina for which the Sicilians are famous. This is probably a reflection of the specialness of the dish on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day because white flour was traditionally considered more expensive and refined. Try sprinkling ricotta salata instead of pecorino cheese onto the pasta.
Lasagna cacate di Módica
Serves 4 to 6
- Pour the flour onto a work surface. Make a well in the middle and break the eggs into it. Sprinkle in the salt. Begin to incorporate the eggs with the flour, a little at a time, with your fingers, pulling more flour from the inside wall of the well. Once the flour and eggs are combined, knead for about 8 minutes until you can form a smooth ball, using a few tablespoons of water if necessary to form a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and leave for 30 minutes at room temperature.
- With a rolling pin, roll the pasta out until it can fit into the widest setting of a pasta-rolling machine. Roll out into very thin sheets and with a knife cut them into 1-inch wide strips. Lay on a white sheet draped over a table to dry for several hours. If you don’t have a pasta-rolling machine, you’ll need to use some elbow grease and roll it out very thin with a rolling pin.
- In a large skillet, cook the meat and sausage together over medium-high heat until there is no pink remaining. Optional: Drain the meat with a slotted spoon, discarding the fat. Set the meat aside.
- In the same skillet, add the olive oil and heat over medium heat, then cook, stirring frequently so the garlic doesn’t burn, the onions and garlic until the onions are translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the cooked meat and sausage, reduce the heat to low, and stir. Add the tomato purée, tomato paste, ½ cup hot water, salt and pepper and cook for 30 minutes.
- Bring a large pot of abundantly salted water to a boil and then add the pasta when the water is rolling. Drain while al dente and transfer to a large serving platter. Cover with the meat sauce and sprinkle on the fresh ricotta. Toss well and sprinkle on the pecorino or ricotta salata.
Zester Daily contributor Clifford A. Wright won the James Beard / KitchenAid Cookbook of the Year Award and the James Beard Award for the Best Writing on Food in 2000 for “A Mediterranean Feast.” His latest book is “Hot & Cheesy” (Wiley) about cooking with cheese.
Photo: Lasagna cacate