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Strozzapreti with Tomato and Pistachios and Goodbye Poppa

November 27, 2010 · 47 comments

in Mains

veal tomato and pistachio pasta imageAs I look out the window today from the kitchen table where I sit and type these posts, I see only the naked branches of the trees and a washed out winter sky. I can see the beauty in it on an intellectual level, but viscerally? It leaves me cold. Tomato-y pasta with little nubs of meat flecked with vividly green pistachios helps, but not much.

I do understand that I’m lucky to have a window, have a view, lucky even to have a kitchen table to sit and write at but still, the scene fills me with melancholy. Clearly some essential Japanese-ness is missing from me that I can’t truly appreciate the four seasons, because I am a girl who could spend her entire life in summer: give me a slip of a dress and bare feet, crunchy salads and sky so bright it hurts your eyes to look at it. A bead of sweat rolling down to the small of my back and the smell of the ocean. Singing and jostling in the back of the car on the way back from the beach, everyone salty and the sky still light. Peaches. Cherries. Pohutukawas. A gin and tonic, beaded already with moisture.

strozapretti image

Bundling up in a jacket and scarf doesn’t make me feel jolly and cosy the way it seems to most people, it merely reminds me that the moment I step out, I will be assaulted by a cold that never seems to let up. Odd, because the day I was born was the day the snow started in Sapporo, the northern city where I was born, where temperatures frequently drop to minus ten degrees celsius. Or perhaps it’s not; perhaps the ferocious cold left some faint imprint on me that sprouted into this fear that winter is a monster with a gaping maw that devours everything in its path and one year, spring won’t come and the landscape will remain forever barren, its features made anonymous by snow.

strozzapretti picture

I meant today to talk about my poppa who passed away peacefully this week. He was a man who told stories and lived by the sea. He ran a farm and did milk runs when he was left to head the family at age fifteen when his father died of a heart attack. He loved my grandmother well during the long and eventful years of their marriage; he saw days when a telegram was the fastest way to get news across the world and the advent of email. He pottered in his shed like the most Kiwi of blokes and sang along to Sinatra in his Irish voice with a look of bliss that made him momentarily forget the world.

granddaughter and grandfather image

He ran pubs eventually, and a better publican I can’t imagine – his way with staff and customers who became friends made him a well-loved man. It was from him I inherited my love of the printed word; he was as fond of a quiet hour with a book as he was of talking to the varied characters who took a seat at his bar.

I wasn’t sure where I was going with this when I started writing but coming in sideways seems to have led me to him, to where I wanted to be. Next week I’ll be at home, breathing the warm, salty air I dream of. I’ll be thinking of him, happily though, because he lived exactly the life he wanted – I know it because he always said so, how good life was, how fortunate he felt. He was in many ways an ordinary man but if “we can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures” then he lived like one of the most extraordinary. I hope I too, get better at cultivating gratitude and who knows, maybe next time I’ll be honestly grateful for winter, even if just for its ability to throw the joys of summer into sharp relief.

What’s your favourite season?

pasta closeup image

Strozzapreti with Veal, Tomato and Pistachio

It’s the texture that makes this dish special – use good quality pasta made in a bronze die if you’re going to bother going to the expense of buying raw pistachios; this is not an everyday dish. Strozzapreti, also known as Filej remains chewy when cooked and is the perfect foil for the voluptuous sauce and surprise that is the pistachios between your teeth. Feeds two.

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

150 grams veal or pork mince

500 grams passata

125 ml (1/2 cup) cream

30 grams (2 or so tablespoons) raw, shelled pistachios, chopped to about clove size

250 grams strozzapreti

Bring 2 and 1/2 litres of water to the rolling boil in a large pot.

Meanwhile, saute the garlic over medium heat in a large saucepan in the oil. Do not brown.

Turn up the heat to high and add the veal mince and break up so the pieces are in little lumps about the size of cough drops. Allow the pieces to brown.

Now would be a good time to cook the pasta.

Add the tomato passata and lower the heat to medium. Simmer until the sauce is reduced by about a third.

Add the cream, bring back up to heat and season well.

Toss the drained pasta through the sauce, transfer to bowls and sprinkle with the nuts.

Print this recipe

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Heather R. November 28, 2010 at 12:31 am

Sorry to hear about your loss, Sasa. You’ve done a great job honoring his memory.

catty November 27, 2010 at 11:02 pm

Awwww your poppa was loved by many and I’m so glad you shared this with us, because now we can love him right along with you! I’m gonna live vicariously through you when you head home over xmas. Just think of me freezing my little beach bunny butt off in London. What are we doing in this hemisphere Sasa? We need to move!

Sasa November 27, 2010 at 11:06 pm

I’ll send photos Catty and you’ll have our prodge to keep you warm ;P Not to mention Panu.

Magda November 27, 2010 at 11:08 pm

I’m really sorry about your grandfather. I had a special relationship with my grandfather and when he passed away it was a bit surreal. It was difficult. I wish you well.

sakura November 27, 2010 at 11:16 pm

What a beautiful post, Sasa. So sorry for your loss, but as you said, your poppa was a contented man who lived a full life. And he had you:)

heavenwildfleur November 27, 2010 at 11:42 pm

hey there, hope you feel better soon once you’re in warmer weather :) i can never get used to the cold here, especially since today is in the negative territory! your poppa sounds like a wonderful man and i’m sure he’s looking down on you and would be proud of you.

Su-yin November 27, 2010 at 11:50 pm

Lovely post, Sasa. A wonderful way to remember your poppa. *big hug*

Kavey November 28, 2010 at 12:28 am

I’m so sorry for your loss x It’s hard when we lose people who light up our lives.

I need the seasons. The changing of them feels right to me. But I could do with just a looong spring, a short summer, a looong autumn and then one week of winter only and straight back to spring. That would suit me just fab.

Sasa November 28, 2010 at 7:52 am

Would that we were the architects of the weather ;P

Anita November 28, 2010 at 12:35 am

I feel you, both in your loss and in this dish you shared with us. He sounds like a quality person, and the dish something that would complement him.

charleschr November 28, 2010 at 2:29 am

So very sorry for the loss of your poppa. It sounds like he was well loved and appreciated everything he had, large and small alike. May he rest in peace.

What'sGoodForDinner! November 28, 2010 at 4:39 am

I’m very sorry to hear about your loss. Thank you for sharing your feelings and your food. XOXO

Janae November 28, 2010 at 6:19 am

So sorry for the loss of your grandfather. This post was very touching. I lost my grandmother earlier this year and it was very difficult; I know how sad you must feel. He sounded lovely. Wishing you all the best…

Spring will be here before you know it, and Christmas in NZ will surely help in the meantime.

AML November 28, 2010 at 7:02 pm

Oh, so sorry bout the poppa. Something I haven’t yet had to experience. Not something I am mentally prepared to deal with yet either. As cold and heartless as I portray myself, that is not something I want or wish for anyone. Condolences…

As for the dish, pistachios are a nice addition. Not something I would have considered. I’m definitely going to need to get caught up on my Italian cuisine. I will be making this very soon in preparation for my looming lifestyle change… On a side note, we don’t see pistachios that beautiful in the states. At least I don’t. Pasta is pretty cute too…and your photography is getting cleaner. I’m looking forward to more video posts.:)

Sasa November 28, 2010 at 7:53 am

Thanks everyone for your kind words and thoughts, it really means a lot xxx

Alessandra November 28, 2010 at 9:10 am

Sorry to hear about your Poppa, a big hug from NZ.
I look forward to having you here, enjoying a bit of Summer and family time.


flo November 28, 2010 at 9:48 am

RIP and lets enjoy these strozzis!


Anna Johnston November 28, 2010 at 10:14 am

Wow Sasa, thanks for sharing the story of your Poppa, I loved his philosophies & how you remember him & I share your love of the summer season – I bet the cold and grey is weirding you out a little too…. it has that effect on me even though I can see beauty in it (especially if I’m inside snuggled up near a fireplace) :)
Thanks also for sharing “we can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures”…. I’m going to remember that.

Cherine November 28, 2010 at 10:28 am

So sorry for your loss!

diva November 28, 2010 at 10:48 am

Although you lost a great man you seemed to have gained so much by it. A very lovely post Sasa, you wrote so beautifully. Big hug! And gorgeous pasta.

Vanessa November 28, 2010 at 11:38 am

Dearest Sasa,

I’m so sorry to hear about your Poppa but what a beautiful tribute to him. Thanks for sharing some of your special moments with him. I’m thinking of you and hope winter doesn’t seem too bleak. Another fantastic recipe and exquisitely photographed. My favourite season is autumn, normally September when the leaves start to turn in the golden sun. Take care, xx.

Sasa November 28, 2010 at 8:28 pm

Thanks E! I remember your love for Autumn from a post of yours, actually I love it too but it’s just I know what’s coming (shows I need to live in the moment, obviously)…

Daniel November 28, 2010 at 11:53 am

So sorry to hear about your Poppa. He sounded awesome.

As for seasons, my favorite is actually winter. Having grown up in California, I welcome the cold every year. I love wearing scarves and hats and coats as much as I do T-shirts and sandals. Go figure.

Mairi @ Toast November 29, 2010 at 6:26 am

Hi, beautiful post about your Poppa. I am a huge pasta fan & will definitely be trying this one out. Your blog looks fantastic. Mairi

Meena November 28, 2010 at 6:54 pm

Sorry to hear your sad news :( thinking of you… I was not lucky enough to really know my grandparents really, I’m happy you had a good relationship with him and knew him for so much of your life.

Meena xxx

amber November 28, 2010 at 11:01 pm

I’m sorry to hear about your Poppa, Sasa. But I’m glad he passed away peacefully and seems to have left behind a fine legacy. Hugs from the Antipodes… though, soon you’ll be in the same hemisphere. :)

Vanille November 29, 2010 at 2:28 am

I’m sorry about your grand father Sasa.
Hopefully coming back home will help.
And I totally share your love for Summer days… They are the best.

The Grubworm November 29, 2010 at 3:57 pm

So sorry to hear about your poppa. You wrote beautifully about him, and brought to mind how lucky I am to still have a grandparent of 90 still going strong in the Deep South.

Unlike Mrs GW, I need the seasons. I love them all and the change they bring whether it’s the wildflowers of spring, long lazy summer days, the slate grey heaving seas of a Cornish autumn or a crisp, razor sharp winter with the wonderful, if harsh, light it brings. And i love the way my cooking changes to meet the season. From cool crisp salads and searing SE Asian curries to more warming spiced stews.

Mrs GW? She, like you, is a summer woman and loves the warm heat of a summer sun on her face.

Sasa December 2, 2010 at 7:09 am

A woman after my own heart…Hope I get to meet her next time I’m in ole Blighty ^_^

Marietta November 29, 2010 at 10:02 pm

i am sorry.. i didnt even see the recipe..i was so taken away by the writing.. I am sorry about your grandfather but i’m happy to know he lived a happy life… which one of us can really say that today? we are ungrateful? live in a worse time? who knows…
sasa-chan..i really do love your thoughts and writing… when I know how hilarious and smiley you also are in real life, i regret that the world is small but not small enough for us to meet at any moment we wish…

Tanvi November 30, 2010 at 2:55 am

I hope God gives you the strength at this moment of your life. Thanks for sharing your feelings and crisis with us. Also for stopping by on my blog.I really love this pasta..simple yet decadent.

sally November 30, 2010 at 5:11 am

Hey Sasa, sorry for the loss…. He looks like a wonderful man. Best wishes…

Favorite season is autumn.

Glenn November 30, 2010 at 6:46 pm

Beautiful post.

As far as the seasons go, it’s summer Sister Sasa, summer……….

Suzy (Foodie in Berlin) November 30, 2010 at 9:10 pm

I am sorry to hear about your grandfather’s passing. No matter how old or how full their life was, we always miss them and want them to be around longer.
On a happier note, I am looking forward to your posts from New Zealand. Take lots of pictures will you? So we can all be warmed by the sunshine vicariously through you.

Couscous & Consciousness December 1, 2010 at 9:06 am

I love spring for its hopefulness (and asparagus and artichokes and favas); and I love summer for warmth, and “saltiness”, and stonefruit, and seafood, and pohutakawas; and I love the colours of autumn and lingering warmth. Asolutely nothing I love about winter at all – nope, not a thing – I seem to sink into a real decline in winter :-(

Sasa, I’m so sorry about your poppa – I’m sure your upcoming time at home will be a rather bitter-sweet time, but hopefully you will have plenty of opportunity to share lots of good memories of your poppa with your family.


flo December 1, 2010 at 11:41 am

these are really good pics, btw! you go, girl!

Julianne December 1, 2010 at 6:14 pm

What a lovely tribute to your poppa — he sounds like someone we would all like to have known.

junkoco December 2, 2010 at 2:01 am

Hi Sasa.
Very touching post…
I am sorry to hear about your poppa. His life must have been fulfilled…

Sanjeeta kk December 2, 2010 at 5:05 am

Hi Sasa, first time to your site, like it to be here. Have never seen poppa before, might learn many new recipes from you. Best wishes.

molly December 2, 2010 at 9:57 pm

Oh, Sasa. I am so sorry. Losing loved ones just never gets easier. Even if, as with your Poppa, they wrenched every last bit of Life out of life.

I am a fall and winter girl, as you well know, with a deep and abiding love for thick sweaters and cold air. Perhaps you’ll find a bit of this warm/cool mix in months to come.

Peace to you,


Peggy December 3, 2010 at 4:07 pm

So sweet of you to share this story with us! This recipe sounds fantastic and I wish I lead a fruitful and grateful life just like your Poppa did!

Liam O'Malley December 3, 2010 at 4:33 pm

My condolences, Sasa.. this was a very sweet post. I’m sure your grandfather was a wonderful man.

I have no favorite season, but rather always anticipate the next to come. Right now, it being December (and me being in the northern hemisphere of course) – I’m totally thrilled to have just booked the first snowboarding trip of the season.

Wishing you the best in your time of grieving, Sasa.

H December 5, 2010 at 3:39 am

My thoughts are with you Sasa. Knowing your Poppa lived a happy life and left behind such wonderful memories is surely some blessing.
Hope it’s warmer in NZ than it is is Australia at the moment – summer seems to have forgotten us this year.

Sasa December 5, 2010 at 7:35 am

Thanks x…Odd, everyone says NZ is crazily hot this year because of La Nina or El Nino or whatever.

SMITH BITES December 6, 2010 at 1:50 am

what a wonderful, wonderful tribute to your poppa, my dear friend . . . and i absolutely love the quote – “we can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures” – may it be so in our own lives. I am not a heat girl – hate sweating and there comes a point when you can’t take anymore clothing off to escape it; so i’m afraid that for me, bring on the layers and the seasons. (((hugs)))

Jamie December 6, 2010 at 6:06 pm

Beautiful, beautiful post, beautiful tribute and he would have cried with joy and pride had he read this. My dear brother passed away just a year ago and it never gets easier, but sharing stories about these dear loved ones is a wonderful way to carry on their spirit. Sending you a big, big hug. xoxo

Kevin (Closet Cooking) January 2, 2011 at 1:35 pm

I like the use of the pistachios in this pasta!

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