By Letizia Mattiacci
live on a mountain blanketed by forests, pastures and olive groves. At the foot of the mountain are thousands of pigs. Most live a happy life roaming around in the woods before being not-so-magically transformed into sausages. These delicious sausages are a provincial favorite.
Welcome to life in rural Umbria. People carefully grow plants and raise animals only to eat them both. Many of my neighbors — especially the older ones — can't switch on a computer to save their lives. They do, however, own customized tractors easily worth the cost of a small house and garden.
Every February Umbria hosts the Feast of the Tractor Blessing, a festival in which some 100 of the motorized beasts assemble in a parking lot of the village of Santa Maria degli Angeli to be sprinkled with holy water by a Franciscan monk armed with an olive tree twig. (He doesn't bring diesel fuel.)
The huffing tractors then chug through the village before slowly making about three kilometers to a local farm where their drivers hold an epic tractor tug-of-war. After much excitement and good cheer, the revelers sit at long tables and feast on an entire roasted pig and copious wine. Their wives wisely opt to stay home and let the boys celebrate the coming spring while hoping for a good harvest. They need the fun. They’ll be working long hours in the coming months.
We must be the only farmers on the mountain who don’t own a tractor. Our only head of cattle is Google the Dog and we don't dine on her. She wouldn't allow it. She's too hungry for food of her own.
We don’t spray a drop of chemicals anywhere on our land and only eat a small sausage or two from time to time. Since we're former urban dwellers, we come equipped only with feeble digestive systems.
We do appreciate being part of the local hubbub. It's nice to know how many of us depend on the rain and the sun for their livelihoods and how difficult it is to make a living by tilling the earth, which helps explain my recipe.
Spring Tractor Pasta (serves 2)
— Sauté the onion, carrot, zucchini and sausages in 2 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.
— With a fork, break up the larger pieces of sausage and sauté until slightly browned and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Fresh Umbrian sausages are liberally seasoned with black pepper and garlic. If you can’t find one, add 2 cloves of minced garlic and a good sprinkle of black pepper 1 minute before the sauce is ready.
— Cook the pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, but still firm to bite. Drain the pasta putting aside 1/2 cup of the cooking water.
— Transfer into the saucepan containing the sausage and zucchini mixture, stir quickly, adding the cooking water and grated cheese (if you're using it). Stir further to coat and absorb the excess liquid. Serve immediately.
Oh, and switch off the ignition of any tractors you might have left revving outside.
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