Seeing means going beyond simply looking, beyond the mechanism of opening the eyes. Seeing is decoding shapes and colors. It is perceiving images or being able to recognize the visible surroundings. Man looks, but the artist sees, investigates, scrutinizes, goes beyond reality, and creates what he imagines filtered by sensitivity and fantasy. The eyes taste first and nourish ideas, instincts, and emotionality. A recent visit to Marche inspired me to make this timeless dish — Minestra Imperiale (or Imperial Soup).
A Dish is Like a Painting
Sometimes a dish is like a painting, much more than what we see or taste. Sometimes a dish is made of memories, sensations, impalpable caresses that stimulate the deepest senses of the soul. Minestra Imperiale or Imperial soup is not a simple recipe or even a simple recipe. It is a cornerstone of the ancient Marche cuisine. This dish is a holiday tradition that needs a lot of care and a lot of time.
Yes, the peculiarity of this soup is that the pasta cooks for many hours in a cotton bag closed with string, and then cut into cubes. It is a mixture of eggs, flour, parmesan, lemon. and nutmeg. The ingredients are then divided into three parts. The addition of spinach and tomato paste create the different colors. They are mostly aesthetic. Call it a testimony of the perpetual search for visual as well as physiological nourishment. This trait distinguishes us as complex individuals like this dish. On the other hand, the soup is often prepared the day before consumption precisely because of its industriousness.
Unfortunately, over the years and for the same reason, it is prepared less and less. Fortunately, there are grandparents — precious guardians of traditions. They are the children of that epoch and now this time that once was, seems to slip from our hands. No longer is there enough time to prepare a grand meal or to sit all together at the table.
Yet the weather is always the same. Perhaps we should stop to savor something in motion and distinguish colors and feelings. Or observe and see beyond the edges of a canvas. I thought of this dish observing my wife who is of Marche origin. Looking into her eyes was like a journey. I got to know her land, favorite dishes, and passions.
Plus became familiar with a region where nature marks the seasons; where the sea and the mountains coexist, welcoming travelers and preserving art and beauty. I got to know the Imperial Soup through stories, and understood that the authentic flavor is all in the warm atmosphere of the great family lunches. The satisfaction of all the senses that aggregate in the moments lived with loved ones.
At the end of this journey, I met Oscar Piattella, a true artist from the Marche region and an artist of great international caliber. His history and art fascinated me until I felt reverential fear. Those feelings were then alleviated by his welcoming voice and kind soul. His character emerges bursting from his works, complex and elegant. It is the result of a methodical and poetic research which at the same time, investigates color, material and immaterial.
Oscar is a man of the world but is rooted in his territory. There, he feels is a ‘place of the soul’ — a cradle of his creativity. He lives in Cantiano, a village that is gently lost among the ridges of the Umbrian and Marche Apennines and on the slopes of Monte Catria. Here nature has a particular beauty due to the intensity of the colors of the tree species. There are harsh contrasts between the different rock formations.
Looking at Piattella’s paintings, engraved signs, and coloristic touches you feel a part of these places and of his reflections on nature and reverberations. He is inspired by rationality, kind, sensitive, and who knows how to see beyond. He questions space and time. Our time together was so dear to me. I paused to live there and to see in the eyes of my wife the landscapes of the Marche; the paintings of Piattella; and the Imperial Soup. All are somehow connected by a certain geometry that, in the end, gave rise to my dish.
Today’s recipe is inspired by this land, Piattella, and, above all by, my wife. Thanks to them, I feel present in this time. I am able to mark the time of life and dream of timeless life.
- Eggs 20
- Parmesan cheese 250 gr
- Flour 00 300 gr
- Grated rind of 2 lemons
- Nutmeg to taste
- Salt to taste
- Butter to taste
- Prepare the chicken broth and set aside
- Start preparing the dough by beating the eggs with all the other ingredients
- Separately boil the spinach, then crush and blend
- Divide the dough into three parts: in one add the spinach, in the other the tomato paste, so as to obtain three different colors
- Put all three parts of the dough in a cotton bag or other equally resistant and flared fabric, close with string and cook in boiling water for about 3 hours
- Once ready, make sure that the central part is also well cooked, then remove the bag from the boiling water and let it cool without opening it on a tray under a weight for about an hour
- When the dough has cooled, gently remove the dough from the bag and cut into cubes
- Throw the diced soup in the hot chicken broth and serve.