What’s perbureira? Some say it’s a soup of beans and lasagna noodles enriched with olive oil and raw garlic. Others might call it a lasagna flavored with a sauce of beans with garlic, and lots of it. However one thinks of it, this is a soup that I was very eager to try at a trattoria in Piemonte. People rave about how delicious it is. It has its own weekend in the summer sagra circuit, with diehard fans waiting in long lines for a portion in a cheap plastic bowl. What I’m about to share are pieces to a puzzle – make that a secret recipe kind of puzzle – that wouldn’t have come together had I not spoken to a lady in a museum for masks.
Trattoria alla Rocca in Rocca Grimalda
I had read nothing but positive reviews on this Slow Food listing so it was a treat to do lunch here and discover for ourselves why everybody says it’s worth a visit. MotH had tartare of Fassona beef (a piemontese breed), followed by stewed tripe and potatoes. I had that bowl of perbureira – beans, garlic and lasagne – but the surprising thing is that the soup itself didn’t have a heavy flavor of garlic. I would venture to say that it was a little bit bland? Grated parmigiano and a tiny fragrant dish of finely chopped garlic in olive oil was served alongside it, allowing you to add as much as you wanted, or not. Apparently perbureira is so popular that each order comes out with a numbered marker – mine was the 4253rd serving in all the years that the trattoria has been open.
Sagra della Peirbuieira in Rocca Grimalda
Save the date: last weekend in August.
Camraderie must run the likes of Robin Hood and his Merry Men, and friendships must be tight like a pack of wolves because anyone familiar with beans and garlic will know that the combination of the two can be a real, ahem, blast. Wish I could say that we’ve been to this! The opinions that I’ve come across are in unison on the garlic. Not so much on the organization. Lines are long, the wait takes forever, but at 32 years of celebrating every August it only proves how big this event has grown. The recipe for perbureira is a well-kept family secret – you won’t find it in any cookbook or website and no outsider seems to have a clue. A nice lady in town told me that there’s a difference between family recipes and restaurant versions, and therein lies the answer. While every family cook has her own special touch, it’s not so much what goes in but how it’s prepared. She said that when her mother made it, it was the best thing ever.
Borlotti, garlic and lasagne soup
As the woman stated, it’s how the soup is made, and the difference between home and restaurant is that in the latter, the soup itself is served plain with a side dish of chopped garlic in olive oil. In this way it strikes a happy compromise between fans and non-fans of the stinking rose. The proper method would be to cook the beans WITH the garlic, and to cook fresh strips of lasagne IN the beans. If you calculated your spicchi d’aglio (garlic cloves) and added the just amount, the result is an incredibly pungent and filling meal.
Soak the beans overnight in plenty of water (she mentioned borlotti). Drain the following day and add to a pot of water, along with several cloves of garlic (I used 6 fat cloves for 8 oz. borlotti and also 1 cube for making vegetable broth). Bring to a boil; lower heat to a simmer; cover and cook until tender, adding water as necessary.
Meanwhile, make a small batch of egg pasta, cut into wide strips and again into irregular pieces like maltagliati. When the beans are ready, remove about a cup and set aside. Puree the rest with an immersion blender. Add extra water/broth if need be to achieve a consistency that is neither too liquid nor porridge-like. Add the pasta and cook until done (it’ll cook fast). Check seasonings with salt and pepper. Add the beans that were set aside and serve with grated parmigiano. At this point I don’t think the dish needed any more garlic but for visual purposes and garlic-crazy fans, that extra kick of a raw bite was like a welcome punch in the mouth. Buon appetito!