That’s the most common sentence among Apulian grandmothers with their kids and grandkids. They say it with an enthusiastic and provocative tone at the same time, to underline the actual and indisputable fact that what they cooked for you will definitely be tastier, healthier, and more nutritious than the recipes of this ” modern world ”.
My grandmother often associates this phrase to a particular dish: broad beans (fave) and chicory (cicoria), an ancient farming dish of the Apulian tradition, consisting of a coarse purée of broad beans accompanied by rural chicory.
Nonna Rosetta’s parents used to work in fields everyday from morning to evening and she started cooking this dish when she was a child. She has kept, for about 60 years, the same small knife her mother used to skin the broad beans, a legume cultivated by many families throughout the territory.
While farming the land, the women used to wear a long apron folded in two and tied at the waist to create a pocket, useful for retrieving wild chicories during the spare time between one harvest and the other. The preparation of the dish began the night before: the women skinned the dried beans in front of an ancient portable heater and then soaked them for the whole night. The next morning they cooked them for about three hours in the “pignatta”, a pot made of terracotta (the most common of which is pot-bellied with a handle) which helped to preserve smells and flavours. The pignatta would rest on coals either of the home fireplace or on lit in the work camp.
Unable to afford any other food, broad beans and chicory were eaten every day in the homes of peasants. It was the first, second and only course during the meal. Indeed, it still represents a nutritious and complete dish: chicories have purifying and digestive properties, while beans are a source of proteins, carbohydrates, and fibers. Even the palate is satisfied thanks to the consistency and flavor, since the creaminess and sweetness of the beans perfectly combine with the bitter taste of the chicory. With these considerations, in front of a good plate of broad beans and chicory, Nonna Rosetta could just affirm “And see what you’ll eat!”
I imagine this dish as the Apulian family of “fave & cicorie”: White broad beans and chicory is THE grandmother, the oldest recipe of the Apulian tradition; then her daughter was born, the mother, ”Impanata”; and finally the granddaughter, the “Impanata ripassata”.
IMPANATA is broad beans and chicory’s leftovers, the name itself refers to the addition of bread (IM – PANA- TA ~ where “pane” = bread). To add a more nourishing meal to face the day in the fields, the beans were combined with chicories and pieces of stale bread, then everything was energetically mixed with a wooden spoon until a creamy consistency was obtained. The Impanata, or in dialect ”A mbanot”, is the dish of culinary tradition in my town, Castellana Grotte, where the Impanata’ sagra is celebrated every year since 1984. The Impanata is handed down from generation to generation and from town to town, becoming a real and authentic recipe.
So history repeats itself, Apulian families cooked Impanata as the main dish, and the day after nothing of the leftover was thrown away. My father, chef Giovanni Longo, tells me “When I was a child and my dad fried the impanata of the previous day, I was inebriated by the scent of onion and toasted bread. I have a very clear memory of that gesture because dad didn’t usually stay in the kitchen, but for the IMPANATA RIPASSATA you could perceive his love and care. “ This version of impanata is crunchy outside and soft inside, a perfect contrast for the palate. The Impanata is stir-fried with onion, cherry tomatoes, bay leaf, and plenty of extra virgin olive oil, until a crust on the surface is obtained, as a frittata.
Giovanni adds ”I made these smells and tastes my profession, and in our Osteria del Caroseno I revisited the Impanata ripassata, creating a dish that recalls this ancient flavor: “RIPASSATA OF BROAD BEANS AND CHICORY AND ITS GARNISHES”. The traditional Impanata ripassata is often garnished with some fried little peppers, aubergines with oil, onion, and olives. In this dish from the Osteria del Caroseno, the Ripassata meets the yellow and red pepper and the Acquaviva’s onion in vinegar. This dish comes from memories and generates memories. I will never forget a customer that, after eating it, got emotional because it reminded her of her grandmother. “
I strongly believe that revisiting traditional recipes can add a remarkable value to the culinary history of future generations. The family made from beans & chicory stops here for now… what will be the next?
- 1 kg of chicory
- 500 gr of peeled white beans
- 100 gr potatoes
- 1 carrot
- 1 stick of celery
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 red onion
- 3 cherry tomatoes
- 200 \ 300 gr of stale bread
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Soak the white beans the evening before, drain the next morning and wash them thoroughly.
- Put the beans in a pot covered with water, boil them with low heat until foam is created on the surface. Remove the foam with the help of a spoon in order to remove impurities.
- Add potatoes, celery, carrots (in chunks) and bay leaves.
- Simmer everything for about 3 hours. When cooked, season with extra virgin olive oil and salt, mix with a whisk until the desired creaminess is obtained.
- Separately, boil the chicory in salted water for a few minutes, then drain carefully. Serve the chicory next to the coarse bean purée.
- Cut the stale bread into small pieces \ slices, add it to the beans and chicory. Mix everything with a wooden spoon, until you have a creamy consistency.
- Fry the red onion, a few cherry tomatoes, and a bay leaf in a pan with plenty of extra virgin olive oil. Add the breadcrumbs (from step 6) and cook over medium \ high heat to create a crust on the surface.
Up to point 5 – Broad beans and chicory, the classic
Up to point 6 – The Impanata
Up to point 7 – The Ripassata