A visit with St. Benedict at Monte Cassino & recipes from the region


Why not enjoy some time traveling this weekend with Keeping the Feast.

Celebrate St. Benedict, patriarch of Western monasticism and patron saint of Europe on his July 11 feast with history lessons at a couple of sites devoted to the author of the rule that became the basis of religious life for all Western religious orders and congregations that would come after him.

Step away from the modern world and turn back to the very early Middle Ages at http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02467b.htm where you’ll find some straight foreward insight about Benedict, his life and times. Then travel on to the official Italian site at http://www.montecassino.it/ for a glorious visit to the monastery he founded hundreds of years ago and its surrounds.

Expect wonderful visuals at the second site and spectacular music too.

Then savor today with marvelous recipes from the Lazio region of Italy where Monte Cassino is located.  There’s no question the pasta recipe  did not date to Benedict’s time. It was unknown in the Rome of his days. But the beets and onions, now there’s a different story. This combination seems a culinary mainstay, one that certainly comes  down to us from ancient times so perhaps, this great saint, who encouraged the eating of vegetables in his rule, may have been familiar with it.

Insalata di barbabietole e cipolle (salad with beets and onions)

Ingredients: 2 lbs fresh beets; l medium yellow onion; 1/4 cup extra virgin oilive oil; 2 tablespoons wine vinegar; coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Directions: wash the beets, place them in a pot of cold water to cover and bring a gentle boil for about 1 hour or until tender. Test with a fork to be sure they are cooked through. Cool and slip off the skins. Slice the beets and the onion thin and place in a salad bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste and dress with oil and vinegar. 

An alternate recipe from the Lazio region calls for slicing the beets thin and marinating them for two hours with 10 fresh basil leaves, salt and vinegar, then mixing them with thin sliced fennel instead of onion and olive oil.

Amatriciana Sauce Recipe

Ingredients: 1 medium onion, finely chopped; 2 oz. slab bacon or pancetta finely diced; 3 tablespoons butter; 1 28 oz can Italian plum tomatoes crushed; 1/2 chili pepper, broken into small pieces or 1/4 teaspoon chili pepper flakes; salt and freshly ground pepper to taste; pecorino Romano cheese to taste and 1 pound bucatini or perchiatelli pasta cooked according to package directions.

Directions: in a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat and saute the onion until translucent. Add the chili and pancetta or bacon and saute until the later is nice and crisp (about 10 minutes). Add salt to taste. Drain the pasta and pour directly into the pan with the sauce, mix well, adding grated cheese to serve. Pour into a large pasta bowl and serve.

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