Books I Read in July

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Naples, Italy. Photo credit: Montse Monmo

In July I started reading Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels. Set primarily in Naples, the four-part series follows two friends — Elena Greco and Raffaella (known as Lila) Cerullo — from childhood through to their sixties.

These books are bestsellers and have drawn global acclaim, but one of the great mysteries behind them is the true identity of the author. Elena Ferrante is a pseudonym, and there has been a lot of speculation about the person behind the nom de plume.

Last year, the New York Review of Books published a piece by an Italian journalist who claimed to have outed Ferrante’s identity. Given that she published her books with the repeated desire to remain anonymous, I feel that the media frenzy over uncovering her identity is in poor taste. It’s certainly unusual for bestselling authors to avoid publicity, but Ferrante clearly has reasons for wishing to write under a pseudonym. Continue reading

Blog challenge recipe #8: Italian-style pasta sauce

So, here is my blog challenge recipe numero otto!

You might have noticed the “-style” in the title above. Although the recipe uses ingredients commonly found in Italian cooking (eggplant, sun-dried tomatoes…) I would call my recipe inspired by Italian flavors: the recipe is one that I improvised last night.

bandiera d’Italia

Italian-style pasta sauce

Ingredients (serves 2, adjust ingredient quantities as required)

2 tbsp olive oil
½ large red onion, diced
½ eggplant, chopped into cubes
½ large zucchini (or 1 medium one), diced
½ head of broccoli, chopped into small florets
8 – 10 white/button mushrooms, chopped
4 – 5 cloves garlic, chopped or crushed
½ cup sun-dried tomatoes, soaked for 2 hours and then chopped
½ tsp hot smoked paprika (optional)
½ tsp dried basil
½ tsp oregano
Fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped (to taste)
Sea salt and black pepper (to taste)

Method

1. If you are using packaged sun-dried tomatoes (as opposed to the ones in oil in jars), you will need to soak them in hot water from a kettle for 2 – 3 hours before use.

Sun dried tomatoes, after soaking for two hours

2. Chop the red onion and crush or chop the garlic.

Red onion

3. Heat the olive oil gently in a pan and add the onion and garlic, plus hot smoked paprika (if using). Cook at a moderate heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Use a lid to speed up cooking time.

4. Add the chopped eggplant, zucchini and mushrooms and cook for a further 10 minutes. Be wary of the eggplant sticking to the pan. In my experience, it has a tendency to soak up the oil like a sponge. Stir often and add a little extra olive oil if necessary.

Chopped zucchini

5. Add the chopped sun-dried tomatoes, broccoli florets, dried basil and oregano to the pan, along with a small amount of salt and black pepper. Stir and cook on a moderate heat for 10 minutes, until all the vegetables are tender.

6. Add the fresh basil leaves shortly before serving and stir into the sauce. I served it with olives and penne pasta topped with goats’ cheese. Enjoy!

Olives — a perfect accompaniment to pasta