If I can cook it, you can cook it And I'll travel the world to bring it back home to you.

The Final Days of My Great Adventure: Why-O Why-O did I not see Milano…before now…and Sofia Minciotti’s recipe for Pasta e Fagioli (and it’s Gluten-Free!)

The Duomo all lit up on a Sunday night.
Sofia Minciotti’s Gluten-Free Pasta e Fagioli
Italy outside the Freccia’s windows

Once I left the Viking Star in Venice, I travelled across Northern Italy by bullet train to Milano, or so I hoped.  Unfortunately, a World War II

bomb was discovered at Brescia, which is right on the route. The train was re-routed and instead of the 2 ½ hours it was meant to take, it was well past
noon when I arrived.    

There to greet me at Milan’s magnificent train station was Edoardo, my Italian ‘brother’ who had
driven up from Assisi, a four hour trip just to have lunch with me at his
sister Sofia’s home in Milano. 

Sofia, Edoardo and Elena Minciotti

What a joy it was to come together with this wonderful family—virtually all of them.  Edoardo brought his beautifuln daughter Elena, who is studying at the University of Perugia.  Laura and her husband Francesco and son Federico came from across town. Sofia and Mario, her husband, had a marvelous lunch for the family and I was so thrilled to be with this vibrant, boisterous crew! 

Laura La Ferla and her mother Sofia Minciotti

         The Minciotti LaFerlas occupy the top floor of a wonderful apartment building on Via Eustachi which is at the heart of an area of Art Deco-inspired buildings.  The apartment is a repository
of their lives.  Sofia, a teacher, has filled her home with books, an entire collection of which were written by Mario, a journalist who has authored over a dozen of them.  Mario’s passion is for paintings and horses of which he has amassed a huge collection filling their Salone.

Francesco Amatruda and Mario La Ferla

Towards evening, Sofia insisted on taking me on a tour of the center of Milan, which is all of two subway stops away.  I have been so blessed with weather. Ever since we sailed from Barcelona, there has been not one drop of rain.   In Italy
it’s called L’Estate di San Martino which is Indian summer Italian style.  The feast of St Martin of Tours is celebrated in Italy on November 11th.  As
Martino was travelling home from Rome
to France, in the midst of a storm, he met a beggar who was crippled from the
cold.  He

The La Ferla Minciotti Salone

offered the man half of his cloak. After a few minutes, the rain stopped, the wind calmed down and sun came out heating the air.   In his honor,
three days of perfect temperatures recur every year to commemorate his generosity.  All I can add is that this year the celebration was much appreciated by this traveller.

           Sofia and I first walked Via Monte Napoleone which is Milan’sultra luxe shopping
street.  It’s hard to imagine more
beautiful shops in a more beautiful setting.
But I had yet to see the even more magnificent Galleria. Truly one of
the most impressive structures I have ever seen, it now makes sense that all those malls across America call themselves “Galleria”.

Bramante’s Chiesa di Santa Maria
         The next few days were magical to me.  I
loved Milan which seemed to have smaller crowds and fewer tourists than anywhere on my trip.  I loved the incredible style that the Milanese have in spades. Even the airport bus drivers wear their scarves with panache.  In fact, everyone seems to make an effort at fashion.

Federico, Master of the Trampolina

I loved the market right outside Sofia and
Mario’s door.  I loved the scale of the
city, so easy to navigate. But most of all, I loved being with the family: I loved going to 9 year old Federico’s school and accompanying his grandfather in taking him to and from his English classes. I loved shopping with Sofia and eating at their table.  I loved their taking me to the newest and
aptly named Porto Nuovo, as modern as any recent development here in New York  and perhaps even more so.  I loved speaking Italian the entire time.  I loved the entire stay and I have to say, it was the highlight of the whole
wonderful trip.

Art Deco in Milano.
            On my last night there, Sofia insisted on cooking dinner.  Sofia is a true celiac sufferer so
dinner out presents quite a challenge. 

After our Chinese experience (see Gung Bao Chicken), I was delighted with the invitation to dine at home.  Sofia made a point of explaining thateverything she cooks is by feel.  There are no real measurements to her
dishes.  Instead she counts of intuition and years of practice.

             While I watched, I took as many
notes as I could.  So the recipe I am giving
you allows you as much leeway as you like.
Pasta e Fagioli is generally a soupy mixture of beans with a small amount of pasta stirred in at the end.
In Sofia’s recipe she used gluten free pasta sparingly.  You can up the amount if you’d like.  The other words of wisdom that Sofiaproferred were to use dried beans and not the canned variety as she feels
strongly that the metallic taste of the cans comes through.  She actually uses her pressure cooker to cook beans and cut down on cooking time. I’ve given instructions for cooking the
beans stovetop. In the event that you are pressed for time, in a pinch she
recommends beans in a jar if you can find such a thing.  She also makes batches of the dish because it re-heats brilliantly and gathers flavor along the way.  Here is the recipe:



Then it was time to go home. And so, at a very early hour, I awoke and tried to sneak out of the house, only be stymied by its ancient doors.  I had to wake Sofia and we said a fond farewell.  I went off to Malpensa. Arriving there, I was switched over to Emirates, which runs a non-stop flight to JFK.  Since I’d spoken not one word of English in four days, when I boarded the flight, I continued to speak Italian.   A young attractive flight attendant talked to me in English, but I blithely continued speaking Italian.  “I’m sorry Sir, I will have to bring the Italian speaking flight attendant because I am Portuguese and I do not speak Italian”.  I guess I simply wanted my stay in Italy to last until the last possible moment.       


Milano Moderno at Porto Nuovo

As an addenda, I simply cannot say enough good things about Emirates.  Even in coach, they took my coat. When was the last time that happened? And Air France, if you want to see how to make your atrocious 380 Airbus work, fly Emirates.



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