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Happy August 15th-Ferragosto (part 1)

Posted in cucina, entertaining, Facts, Features, Holidays, recipes, and special occasions

montesilvano-pescara.jpgferragosto-1.jpgThe August sun has been intense here in Italy, hot and intense is the only way to describe it. It is the sun that was meant for August in Italy. The month of August is the most popular month for taking summer vacations and going to the beach so an intense sun is a welcome site.

Today is the 8th of August, the day that the Olympics are beginning in Beijing but it is also a week away from  the most popular summer holiday here- it dates back to the time of the Romans-Ferragosto  or simply known as August 15th.

As I am readying for our big ‘Ferragosto’ picnic -here are some ideas to have your own August 15th celebration-anywhere in the world 

How to organize your perfect Ferragosto picnic (1st part)

copyright, 2008, Maria Liberati

The Basic Art of Italian Cooking by Maria Liberati tm

Editor: Michela Pompeo

For Italians, Ferragosto is one of the most important popular feasts; as important as Christmas, in fact. It is always celebrated 15th August and it is really a day of rest for everybody: offices, shops, businesses… everything is closed; even newspapers do not come out that day because journalists (who usually work every day of the year, except Christmas, New Year’s day and 1st May) rest, too.

The term Ferragosto comes from the Latin Feriae Augusti and it means Augustus’s rest (Augustus being the first Roman Emperor, 63 BC-14 AD). This feast goes back to ancient times when peasants celebrated the end of the main agricultural activities. In the 6th century AD, the Catholic church thought it better to make it coincide with the religious festivity of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary; and it has continued to be so up to now.

Anyhow, it is a holiday, and it is a typical tradition to spend it out of town: people usually go to the seaside, to the mountains, to some nice spots where they can enjoy peace and nature.

Restaurants are usually full, but it is also very popular to have a picnic out of doors with friends or relatives. There are hundreds of ways to have a picnic outside, but they can roughly be divided into ‘simple’ and more ‘sophisticated’. By simple I mean taking a blanket, a number of sandwiches, some beverages, and spend the day out cheerfully. The other system requires a longer preparation of food, which has to be done the day before. I suggest the following menu for Ferragosto picnic:

  1. aperitif: Bellini drink
  2. first course: Pasta fredda
  3. main course: Vitello tonnato + Frittelle di patate al formaggio
  4. fruit: anguria
  5. sorbetto al limone
  6. wine: Prosecco
  7. beverages: water, fruit juices or squash

As far as number one above is concerned, it is difficult to give precise quantities, because it depends on how much you want to prepare. Remember that the ratio, though, is 3 parts of peach pulp (use the variety with ‘white’ pulp, not ‘yellow’) every 7 parts of Prosecco wine (frizzante=sparkling)

So, wash and take the bone off the peaches, cut them into pieces (do not peel them), mix the peach pulp with Prosecco, add a sprinkle of lemon juice and, optional, a teaspoon of sugar. Pour it into a bottle and keep it cool overnight. Before leaving for the picnic, place the bottle in the cool bag.

Going on with number two: cook pasta (any type will do; remember to throw pasta into salted boiling water – not before! 1 lb grams for 7 people), drain and place it into a large bowl in which you have previously put black and green pitted olives, fresh tomatoes (3 medium-sized ones) cut into small pieces, salt, pepper, oregano, and extra virgin olive oil. Stir carefully. Let it cool and put it into the fridge. You can take the bowl as it is to the picnic. Before serving, stir again and add a little more oil to separate the ingredients, because pasta tend to ‘glue’ and form a kind of block.

To be continued

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