As Sister Scherbel mentioned in her blog, Ivan Sapio is our Ward Mission Leader. He is a young man nearly 26 years old and an outstanding example of a Latter-day Saint. He studied to become a professional chef and the man he was studying under in Rimini was LDS and introduced Ivan to the Church. At 21 he was called to serve in the Italy Catania Mission. Rimini is in the Milano mission and Ivan lives in Battipaglia which is in the Italy Rome mission. During his mission, the Church decided to combine the Catania Mission into the Rome Mission. So, Ivan ended up serving in the mission where his home town is located. In fact, he was an assistant to President Kelly, our current Mission President. Ivan (pronounced “eevahn”) speaks English (American) very well and is a very talented member of our branch here in Battipaglia. His dream is to start his own restaurant near the new temple being completed in Rome. Selfishly, we would love to see him remain here in Battipaglia. So many members of the Church in Southern Italy leave the area because there are a lot more good jobs in the North.
One of our fondest hopes is that we can learn to cook Italian food from Ivan. He graciously met us last Wednesday (Feb. 20), took us shopping, and then showed us how to make lasagne Bolognese. At the store we learned several things: 1. When you purchase Parmesan cheese, they will grate it for you for free. 2. Parsley and celery are free. You just ask for “un po di sedano o un po di prezzemolo” and they give you a few sticks of celery or parsley at no cost. 3. They have very good milk. When I was a young missionary, I never found any milk that tasted good. Things have really improved. For making lasagne, however, Ivan purchased milk which has been boiled and packaged for a long shelf life without refrigeration. I have always been skeptical of this kind of milk, but it is less than half the price of fresh milk, and was perfect for cooking. 4. There are essentially three grades of olive oil. First is extra virgin olive oil (from the first press of olives, less than 1% acidity), then virgin olive oil (also from the first press with less than 3% acidity), then normal olive oil (which we had purchased because it was less expensive). It may contain refined olive oil (not only pressed, but also filtered and treated in some way) mixed with virgin or extra virgin oil). He reluctantly used the oil we had on hand. We will do better next time.
We are not sacrificing a bit in the food area. We have found the fruits and vegetables here to be wonderfully fresh and flavorful. In most stores, if they are designed as “self-serve,” you must put on a glove made of the same plastic as the plastic bags you put the vegetables in(no touching vegetables with your bare hands,) put them in a plastic bag and weigh them indicating with a numeric code which vegetable you are weighing. The scale then prints a label indicating the weight and cost for the cashier. In some stores, the store personnel weigh the vegetables or fruit and put the proper sticky label on for the cashier. This differs a bit from store to store and since we are still trying new stores, we get to learn new approaches frequently.
Like in Germany, to take a shopping cart, you must insert a 50 cent piece, or a one or two Euro piece in the handle of the cart to free it from the line of carts. When you are finished, you bring the cart back to the line of carts and you use a chain with a kind of key on the end to reconnect your cart to the line and receive your coin back – very cleaver. You never see shopping carts in the parking lot blocking parking spaces.
So, after helping us shop, Ivan returned with us to our apartment and showed us how to make lasagne Bolognese. (I am using Sister Scherbel’s notes.) He started by cutting up the vegetables which would take the longest to cook – carrots, celery and onion into small cubes – about 1/8th inch on each side. He said for his first two years in cooking school they were only allowed to work with vegetables. His knife skills are amazing. He started sautéing the carrots and celery in a bit of olive oil and added some salt, maybe a teaspoon. Then he added about a pound of hamburger (chopped veal) and let the vegetables and meat sauté for a few minutes. He then added about 800 grams of canned tomatoes which had been blended with a hand blender. This mixture cooked for about 25 minutes, then he finally added about 700 grams “passata di pomodoro” (tomato sauce) and let everything cook until the béchamel sauce was finished. This became ragout (ragu in Italian) or red spaghetti sauce.
Next he started on the béchamel sauce – normal béchamel sauce with equal parts butter and flour cooked in milk and salted to taste. He wanted to put some nutmeg in the béchamel sauce, but we didn’t have any and had forgotten to purchase it. (It turns out that you purchase the actual “nut” and grate it so it is always fresh when used as a spice.) He put black pepper in instead – quite a bit, maybe a teaspoon.
When the two sauces were finished, he put a little of each on the bottom of the lasagna pan so the noodles wouldn’t burn on the bottom. Then he began layering uncooked lasagna noodles on top of the sauce. Each layer contained both red and white sauce, some pieces of a cheese like the dry mozzarella cheese we use, and some Parmesan cheese. He covered the top layer with the two sauces. Interestingly, he didn’t boil the noodles first. He just put the hard, uncooked noodles in between the layers of sauces. Then it went into the oven which had been headed quite hot – probably 400 degrees or so. He checked every so often to see that it was boiling and that the top was a bit crispy and that was it.
|Sister Scherbel and Ivan Sapio with our Lasagne ready to go |
into the oven
It was soooo delicious. Sister Scherbel had prepared some boiled zucchini slices mixed with a bit of butter and Parmesan cheese on the side. We enjoyed it for a few meals.
Ivan and I have joined together a couple of times to teach lessons to people and give blessings. He is an amazing young man. He is growing a very thick beard because he has a part in a movie someone in the Church is making in Sicily and they want him to have the old time, Mediterranean, bearded look. The beard comes off at the end of April. I can’t wait for our next cooking lesson.
Ivan is also our Brach Institute Teacher. He teaches a small group of young single adults each Tuesday night at 5:30 p.m. He is an excellent teacher. He was taught Institute by Stefania D’Andolfo – more about Stefania later.
|Our Institute Class: Greta Piccirillo, Ivan Sapio, Elder Taylor|
Elder Carr, Alessandra Di Martino, Allessandro Piccirillo,
|After English class: Sorella Scherbel, Raffaele, Anita, Stefano, |
Elder Carr, Elder Taylor, Rosella, Fabbio
We also have English class after Institute. About a dozen people come. Sister Scherbel and I really enjoy teaching. We bring our computers so we can show photos and get on Google Maps. It is really a kick.