For the Sugo
Finely dice half a small onion and half a carrot
Heat a glug of olive oil in a pot (ensure you’re making your sugo in a large pot with a lid)
Fry the chopped onion and carrot in the oil until soft and golden
Add the peas and a couple of pinches of salt
Stir the peas, carrot and onions so that the peas soak up the flavour of the onions and the oil
Add all of the passata to the pan
Fill the empty jars / bottles from the passata and add just as much water as passata to your pot of sugo
Add half a teaspoon of black pepper and continue to season to taste. If it needs it, add half a tbsp of sugar to reduce the acidity of the tomatoes
And a good old handful of basil leaves
Bring to the boil then simmer on a medium to low heat and cover your pot with its lid.
Allow to simmer for an hour while you prepare the other layers of your Taiano.
For the cauliflower
Boil the cauliflower and roughly chop into pieces
Finely dice half a small onion and fry in a large glug of olive oil until soft
Add the cauliflower to the pan, drizzle it in olive oil and fry on a low heat for 3-4 minutes until it has soaked up the oil
Take off the heat and allow to cool before it’s crumbled into the dish later
For the pork
In a separate pan, add a glug of olive oil and fry the pork on a medium to low heat, seasoning with salt and pepper until the meat is just browned (for a maximum of five minutes!)
Take off the heat and allow to cool
For the perfect pasta
Boil water for your pasta and add salt. Wait until it’s bubbling away before you add your pasta and cook until two minutes before the indicated instructions on the packet - try it to ensure it’s al dente.
Drain the pasta, keeping a ladleful of water behind from the pasta water, and adding it to the pasta just before adding to your tray. This will help your pasta bind with the sugo (sauce) better.
PASTA NO NOs - Don’t add oil. Don’t rinse in cold water!
Now to layer up
In a large 40x40cm tray drizzled with olive oil, begin to layer:
Pasta, followed by a ladle of sugo to cover the pasta
A layer of pork, spread across the tray
Crumbled fresh ricotta
Sliced boiled egg
Repeat, while ladling in your sugo after your pasta layer
Keep crumbling in your ricotta, cauliflower and pork by hand until your tray is full
Finish with a hefty grating of parmesan, a dusting of black pepper, a drizzle of olive oil and 2 whisked eggs poured over your tray of ingredients before it goes in the oven
Cook at 250 degrees for half an hour
Retrieve CAREFULLY. Serve with parmesan and a good Italian vino.
South of Sicily in the countryside of Licata, we spent a day learning to roll fresh pasta with Nonna Ciccina in her outdoor garden. Cooking up a Taiano is a real process, usually reserved for feasting days like New Year’s or Ferragosto (the very special Saint’s day of 15th August).
First Ciccina prepared the pasta dough, returning to knead and roll hundreds of intricate individual pieces of strozzapretti (you can of course, just use a good quality store / deli-bought pasta), before moving onto the many individual components that make up the layers of a traditional Sicilian, pasta al forno (oven baked pasta).
After five hours of preparation, countless stages and continual poking of the traditional wood fired oven from impatient Ciccina, the Taiano was ready. What we were not counting on was the entire tray being dropped on the floor by her son-in-law before it even reached the table. We saw the funny side, but tensions in the family were at an all-time high. She was not a happy Nonna.
Thankfully, our photographer, Ella, is vegetarian and we’d made a spare veggie tray for her, so no harm done.
40cm x 40cm tray
Serves 8 people
4 hard boiled eggs
1kg cauliflower, boiled with a pinch of salt until soft and chopped up
1 small onion
200g peas (can be frozen)
Basil - large bunch
500g of pork mince
800g Strozzapretti pasta (can be swapped for another good quality pasta)