I have always been attracted to whimsical menu titles. I don’t what captivates me so, other than I just love a good story and the history behind them. If I really had to explain it deeper, I would say it is good for business and chicken soup for a Chef’s soul. It provides a moment for servers to develop a rapport with customers and take them past just eating dinner and onto a rich and multifaceted dining experience. By bringing life to older recipes it allows me to do my part in the vast lexicon of culinary heritage to help older traditions to continue to exist in the future and keep them relevant. It also gives the press an opportunity to write something interesting and educate us. My current menu has a few gems like Brule Doights and Squazabarbuz.
Sguazabarbuz, beard splasher, is an Italian pasta and bean soup from Ferrara. The story starts that on May 29, 1503 Lucrezia Borgia, daughter of Pope Alexander VI, came to Ferrara to marry Alfonso d’Este, Duke of Ferrara. A steward of the Palace, taking inspiration from her golden locks, created this special pasta and bean soup in her honor. The pasta is cut into irregular strips resembled her hair.
The story is actually much longer, more complicated and has more plot twists than a Hitchcock thriller. Lucrezia was sort of a femme fatale. Her father, Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia, had arranged several marriages into influential families to help build power for her own family. History has shown the family to be power hungry and willing to spill blood to grow the family name.
Her first marriage to Giovanni Sforza enabled her father to ascend from a mere cardinal to Pope. When the marriage no longer gave the family benefit, her father had it annulled on the grounds that the relationship had never been consummated. While the deal was being negotiated apparently she had gotten pregnant by someone. Her first marriage ended on December 27th, 1497. In March of 1498, she gave birth to an illegitimate son named Giovanni. Stories swirled about the child being a product of incest. Two papal decrees later Giovanni became son of Pope Alexander.
Her next marriage came in July of 1498 to Alfonso of Aragon, the 17-year-old Duke of Bisceglie and son of the late king of Naples. Lucrezia and Alfonso had a child, but unfortunately for Alfonso, by 1500, Pope Alexander and Lucrezia’s brother Cesare sought a new alliance with France, and Lucrezia’s marriage to Alfonso became a major obstacle. On July 15, 1500, Alfonso narrowly survived a brutal murder attempt only to be strangled to death by Cesare’s goon squad while recovering from his earlier stab wounds.
After Alfonso’s death, Lucrezia’s father arranged for her to be married to Alfonso d’Este, Duke of Ferrara. Her new husband was hesitant because of the Borgia family reputation. The couple moved away from the inlaws, thereby escaping the endless scheming of her power hungry father and brother. Lucrezia and Alfonso became the reigning duke and duchess of Ferrara and Lucrezia garnered a reputation as a patron of the arts.
SGUAZABARBUZ│ ‘Beard Splasher’, Italian Bean and Pasta Soup
CHEF FRANÇOIS DE MÉLOGUE
Ingredients for four servings:
1 c. Borlotti Beans, soak overnight
3 oz Pancetta, diced
1 Onions, finely chopped
1 stalk Celery, finely chopped
2 Carrots, finely chopped
4 c. Chicken Broth
1 t. Rosemary
1 t. Thyme
1 t. Oregano
4 Sage leaves
to taste Salt and Pepper
¼ c. chopped Parsley
½ # Maltagliati Pasta
1 Drain Borlotti beans, cover with cold water and bring to boil. Cover, and simmer till done.
2 Sauté pancetta. Add onions, celery, carrots and cook in pork fat till tender.
3 Add half the beans, mash and cook another 30 minutes.
4 Add whole beans, chicken broth and herbs.
5 When you are ready to eat, cook the fresh pasta and drop in soup.
6 Serve with grated parmesan and drizzled with olive oil.