May 31, 2009

Friggione recipe

Scarpetta, literally means "little shoe," God knows why. Scarpetta is the word for the act upon which a small piece of hand held bread mops up any delicious food residue in a plate and is devoured. 

Essential. Frowned upon in etiquette manuals. Not the thing to perform at a formal seated dinner. I don't usually care for that sort of table manners, so I do it all the time, regardless of dress code. That is if whatever is left in my plate is worth it and the bread is soft enough.

I'm a huge fan of scarpetta, so my dishes are usually a bit overdressed, in order to enjoy a conclusive good sweep. Be they pasta dishes, fish or meat. I usually clean the plate with the bread so carefully that I have been often called names. Or fed more food thinking my plate had been empty to begin with.

Preeminent scarpetta applies to those dishes that require large amounts of sauce, like for example a slippery plate of Bucatini all'Amatriciana, or homemade tagliatelle al ragù or a very juicy roast. Once you've eaten the food, whatever's left in the plate, is scarpetta material. Otherwise, scarpetta can be performed with those dishes whose sole purpose is being sopped by a spongy chunk of warm bread. Friggione falls into this second category.

Friggione is a tomato and onion sauce typical of Bologna, the epicurean city also known as la dotta (the learned) and la grassa (the fat).

This sauce is exclusively intended for dipping bread as a fully authorised scarpetta antipasto. Rich and absurdly tasty, friggione takes forever to make, and employs politically incorrect amounts of onion.

The time-consuming recipe to exquisite friggione, dating back to 1886, is made with the following ingredients:

1 kg (2.2 lbs) white onions, thinly sliced
500 g (1.1 lb) ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely chopped (or a 28-oz can of preserved tomatoes)
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp kosher salt
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Thinly slice the onion (for best results, use a mandoline) and leave it to macerate with the salt and sugar in a large bowl.

Pour the onion – and the resulting maceration juice – in preferably a terracotta stewpot (not iron, non-stick, copper or enamelled) with the oil, and over a gentle heat, cook it slowly stirring with a wooden spoon.

Keep cooking at a very low simmer until the onions wilt, making sure they don’t stick to the bottom of the pot. Add a little broth or hot water should the onions dry. This could take a while.

At this point, add the chopped tomatoes over very low heat, stirring for 2 hours. Yes, maybe even 2 and a half.

No, I'm not kidding.

Adjust seasoning and keep moist with water (or a little vegetable broth) if necessary.

When your patience has completely run out and the onion and tomatoes will have become a lovely geranium-colored purée, the friggione will be ready. And it will have been worth the wait, believe me.

Buon appetito!


  1. Lola, Oh you deliver your recipes with a dash of humor and a fair helping of history!!!! Brilliant!!! I love it!!! "...employs politically incorrect amounts of onion" ... absolutely hilarious!!! And such a wonderful recipe! I don't mind recipes that simmer for hours...My father's favorite bolognese simmered for at least 6-8 hours! So, I KNOW this is good...I need to grab my market basket and carry this one home with me...and stop along the way for some delicious fresh bread!! Cheers! You are simply fantastic! ~Janine XO

  2. I scarpetta, though never knew it. Warm soft bread brings out the best in a good dish and sops up the best as well. As far as formals go, do it anyway, they need to loosen up. : )

    recipe sounds delic'.

  3. We make this on the side of a good steak, believe it or not. It's wonderful! Only we add sliced carrot too!
    Yes, this swiping business is a beautiful thing! LOL

  4. I am also a fan of scarpetta. Sounds delicious, but maybe too time consuming for me.Great post nonetheless. Have a beautiful day.xx♥

  5. If you want food that tastes like it has come from the heart sometimes you have to have patience. This sounds soooo worth waiting for.
    Passimi il pane per favore. Grazie

  6. I'm thinking maybe a little cilantro, too? But then I'd put cilantro on my cereal if I could get away with it.

    And you all sloppy fingered actually enjoying food is a joy to think on, manners be damned!

  7. I had forgotten this term. It definitely requires time and patience and very good tomatoes too. Do you add basil or any other herb?

  8. So glad you posted this! My husband has teased me forever for using bread to clean every last molecule of sauce off my plate at my favorite restaurants. Or at home. Maybe one added benefit of scarpetta is you don't need to wash your dishes afterwards. :)

    Thanks, L. xo

  9. Ahh..The pleasures of my friend, Lola describing poor table manners with exquisite charm and grace - I can actually feel the warmth of the bread in my hand as I read this post...and I'm searching for something to scarpetta!

  10. Yum... I love your passion for food.
    My partner does most of the cooking because he enjoys it more than me... I still cook just not so often as I used to.

    best wishes & I like your skywatch Fri too.


  11. Ooooh, I love scarpetta! One would think it's just NATURAL, not necessarily an italian habit, no?
    I like the idea of the Friggione and as I was reading your recipe I visualized the steps I'd make in my kitchen, but, honestly, what's your tip to thinly slice 1kg of onions without spilling one liter of tears? (Once I wore a pair of goggles...)

  12. I wondered where 'scarpetta' came from too. When I was expecting (four times), I was so hungry that I could have eaten the kitchen table legs. I'd do the scarpetta business with the sauce pot too!

  13. I loved the post, but cannot fathom out why the picture of the divine shoe?Have I missed something obvious here?
    Nice to know there is a name for something I always do when I have soup.

  14. I replied via email to some of your comments with specific questions, then I saw that I had been doing it with my other account name, Eleonora. It's me and I wish to thank you for taking the time to stop here and comment every time I post. I am so rewarded by your kind words. Ciao,

  15. Oh and to answer Valeria, the trick to save tears when slicing onions is HOLDING A PIECE OF BREAD IN YOUR MOUTH, BETWEEN YOUR TEETH. It works!

    Ciao my friends!

  16. Delightful post! Your photo of the friggione is beautiful. I suppose one could get in many plies while stirring for two hours!

  17. This looks absolutely amazing. I'll have to try it when I'm home for a day and it's tomato season!

  18. Wow Lola, this looks delish!! When cooking so long it brings out some good sweet flavors!! I enjoy new dishes from Italy! Thanks for sharing your Friggione :)

  19. Love, love, love it! Oh forget the table manners- never waste good food I say!

  20. My family will agree heartily with this, not that we have ever called it scarpetta of course, but probably will from now on! :)

  21. Now that friggione looks way better than anything that could possibly be done with canned tuna :-) I think I'll take a crack at this first when I have a few spare hours.

  22. Lola cara,
    Yep, I've heard this term a lot. In fact my dear friends, being from south Italy, have always said fare la scarpetta so I know it. Even at home I use it just because I love the tomato sauce. But, why is this said? Where is the origin of this phrase?

    But all I know is that “fare la scarpetta” is the highest compliment one can pay to a home cook:)

    Grazie molto! Augurondati una buona serata ed anche settimana nuova. Risentirci a presto:)

  23. My husband cuts the bread up just to do the sweeping. At least he's enjoying the meal I cook for him. I do get a bit cross at him if we're out in public and he starts doing it then though!!

    CJ xx

  24. This was one of the great joys of eating at my childhood home. Whenever we had something yummy and juicy, good bread would be served and the dinner would end with us (well, at least me and my Dad) sopping up the good gravy or sauce with the bread. Yum!

    Thanks for the good memories!

  25. Hi Lola!
    I was so intrigued with this recipe. I was just talking to a young man the other night who told me he put an entire onion in his tomato sauce and I nearly gasped out loud. But to read this recipe and to see this method - and that it is from Bologna - made me want to try this. It is just the sort of recipe I enjoy - watching, waiting, the very slow changes in color, texture, aroma. Ahhhhh!

  26. And the fact that it is for dipping - even better!
    Catherine (again!)

  27. Someone told me long ago that patience is a virtue and this recipe for Friggione is a great example of that virtue Thanks,

  28. Ciao Lola,
    Mi ricordo che da bambino, si voleva sempre "il cantuccio" del filone di pane, per ripulire il piatto. Il sugo delle bracioline in padella...

  29. Andrea~ A Roma il "cantuccio" è comunemente detto "culetto." Ma senza malizia!!

  30. Sicuramente senza malizia... :-)
    E' una cosa gloriosa e golosa, fare la scarpetta. Ho imparato a fare il pane casereccio, solo per il piacere d'ogni tanto d'avere la buccia o il cantuccio (o "culetto") per ripulire il piatto. Che qui in Oklahoma il pane crostoso si fa fatica a trovarlo.

  31. Andrea~ Ma– come, Oklahoma!? Ah, beh allora si spiega la grande nostalgia per tutti questi sapori e saperi.
    Che bello, anche io amo fare il pane casareccio, anche solo per il piacere di sentirne il profumo. Buona scarpetta!! E torna presto

  32. Thanks for this recipe! It's one of the few in English I could find for friggione. I'm listening to the onions simmer as I type. The only modification I've made, on the advice of my Bolognese friend, is to substitute pig lard - strutto - for the olive oil (speak of politically incorrect...)


  33. Brad~
    I had actually tweaked this to serve a more Anglo Saxon and politically correct palate, but the original recipe is with strutto!!
    Thanks for your comment :)

  34. "Cenerentola! Cenerentola! La Scarpetta!" "No, grazie, ho già mangiato!" ("Cinderella! Cinderella! Your 'scarpetta'- little shoe!" "No, thanks, I've already eaten!")

    1. Geniale!
      Ma quant'è buono il friggione?! Senza pane forse meno...

  35. I've been enjoying this dish made from a Sunset Cookbook from way back. Your history and explanation of the dish are wonderful. Now I even know how to pronounce it. As a second generation Belgian American I was raised eating al la Scarpetta much to my husband's chagrin. We 'sopped' everything! Still do.