Taganu D'Aragona



Photo Courtesy of Mike Sula


TRADITION

This Easter recipe is a tribute to my Grandmother Theresa who brought back a special delicacy from her hometown of Aragona, Agrigento, Sicily. Taganu D’Aragona has been prepared on Good Saturday in Sicily from at least the 1600’s. Taganu is simply Sicily’s version of Timpano, which is layers of pasta, meats, eggs and cheeses baked in a pie crust shell. The only difference I could tell is the Sicilian version bakes everything in a bread shell instead of dough. As far as the filling is concerned, I’m sure each family had their own special recipe.

I made the Taganu for the first time just the other day. I’ve been wanting to make it for years but just never found the time. Since my Grandmother has been gone for over twenty years now only four people in the family every attempted to recreate this recipe. Two of my Uncles made it once. My Mother made it once. And now me.

I remember during Easter time my Grandmother would make the gravy, the meatballs, grind the cheese with a hand grinder and break all the eggs for this delicious dish. She would wrap pieces of it in foil so when someone came over it was ready to go. All of her adult children would stop by to pick up a piece to distribute to their families and each one would argue about the size of the piece they were getting.

Unfortunately I have one Aunt remaining and a few cousins scattered all over the country who actually would know if mine tastes the same as my Grandmothers or not. Since the recipe was never written down I had to rely on my Aunt’s recollection of my Grandmother making the Taganu. I made the meatballs a day ahead and bought the rest of the ingredients the next day. The one main ingredient is Tuma cheese which you’ll only find at the market around Easter time. Tuma cheese is a very expensive ingredient. It’s a soft sheep’s milk cheese with a mild flavor similar to fresh mozzarella and is priced close to $12.00 a pound.

I see why I waited so long to make this recipe. It’s very time consuming and very messy. The reward was when it was finished the taste made all the memories of many happy family Easters rush back into my mind.

So here’s my family recipe for Taganu D’Aragona. Hopefully you can carry on a family tradition of you own.

Happy Easter!



Taganu D’Aragona

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 and 1/2 pound of Rigatoni
  • 18 eggs, beaten
  • 1 and 1/2 pounds of Tuma cheese, sliced
  • 3 cups of Romano cheese, grated
  • 1/8 tsp of cinnamon
  • 1 cup of chicken broth, hot
  • 2 cups of red gravy, recipe below or you can use jar sauce since there is a minimal amount used in the recipe.
  • Enough slices of Italian bread or white bread to cover the bottom, sides, and top of a large clay pot.
  • A lot of Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped. Probably around 1 and 1/2 cups.
  • 10 meatballs, smashed, recipe below
  • 1/4 cup of vegetable oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

    PREPARATION

  • In a large pot, cook the pasta in around 6 quarts of boiling salted water until al dente.
  • In a large glass baking dish beat together the eggs, Romano cheese, parsley and cinnamon. I used a Kitchen Aid to mix these ingredients then I poured the mixture into the baking dish.
  • Rub the oil all over the inside of a large clay pot.
  • Dip both sides of the bread into the egg mixture and line the bottom and sides of a the pot.
  • Place a layer of Rigatoni on the bottom of the pot, cover with a few spoonfuls of egg mixture, then place a layer of Tuma cheese on top. Place a layer of meatball mixture over that and spread a little red sauce on top.
  • Repeat the layering process until the pot is filled to the top while seasoning each layer with a little salt and pepper.
  • Dip the remaining slices of bread in the egg mixture and cover the top.
  • With the back of a wooden spoon, place a hole down the middle of the pot and pour in the warm chicken broth.
  • Bake uncovered in a 350 degree oven for about 2 to 3 hours until all the liquid is absorbed but not completely dry. Insert a large knife to test if it’s done. If the knife comes out wet cook a little longer.

    Slice and eat warm or refrigerate and eat cold which is my favorite.


    Simple Gravy

    INGREDIENTS

  • 2 - 16oz cans of tomato sauce
  • 1 small can of tomato paste
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 Tbls of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp of dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp of dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup of red wine
  • 1/4 tsp of salt
  • 1/ tsp of fresh ground pepper

    PREPARATION

  • In a large saucepan sauté the onions and garlic in the olive oil for 2 minutes.
  • Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 2 more minutes.
  • Add the tomato sauce, basil, oregano, salt, pepper and wine and cook stirring occasionally for about 1 hour.


    Meatballs

    INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound of ground beef
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup of Romano cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup of parsley
  • 1/2 cup of Italian bread crumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup of vegetable oil

    PREPARATION

  • In a large bowl mix all the ingredients together.
  • Roll the meat into medium sized balls.
  • In a large frying pan, fry the meatballs until golden brown on both sides.
  • Drain on a paper towel

    Should make 10 to 12 meatballs


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