“You will learn at your own expense that in the long journey of life you will encounter many masks and few faces” (Imparerai a tue spese che nel lungo tragitto della vita incontrerai tante maschere e pochi volti). This is a quote from One, No One and One Hundred Thousand (Uno, Nessuno e Centomila), one of my favourite books from Luigi Pirandello. The main character, Vitangelo Moscarda, is a wealthy twenty-eight years old living his best life in the small town of Richieri.
One day,while he was looking at himself at the mirror, his wife wife highlights that Vitangelo’s nose tilts to the right. This comment was totally unexpected, it was news to Vitangelo, and his wife rub salt in the wounds, remarking some more traits about his eyebrows and ears. Mr Moscarda realizes that “for others I was not what till now, privately, I had imagined myself to be,” and that, consequently, his identity is purely based on the perceptions of those around him.
Basically Vitangelo realises that everyone he knows, everyone he has ever met in his life, has built an image, a Vitangelo “persona” in their own minds and that none of these personas corresponds to the image of Vitangelo built about himself.
Curiosity: The word “persona” derives from Latin where it originally referred to a theatrical mask or character played by an actor.
So Vitangelo is simultaneously without a self “no one” and the theatre for “one hundred thousand” selves.
Those meaningless remarks from his wife set off a crisis of identity that escalates, leading Vitangelo to do everything he can to destroy those masks that people created about him. He is then declared insane and it is only then that he finds his peace.
Yeah such a drama queen, I know.
The concept of masks is not only described in Pirandello’s work, actually it was heavily present in Italian literature; Commedia dell’arte originated in Italy in the 16th Century and masks played a crucial role in this form of theatre. The masks described by Pirandello were “invisble” masks created by and for the society, by ourselves and those around us; while the masks in the Commedia dell’arte were clearly visible and had a specific meaning: they were either a representation of the devil, like in the case of the Zanni, or they were a satirical portray of the character played by the actor, like Balanzone.
Balanzone is a very wealthy man, self-important, he loves to hear his own voice. More importantly, he loves food and drinks. His unique mask, along to his indulgent attitude, inspired the creation of a special type of pasta, called exactly Balanzoni.
Today we are in Bologna, a beautiful city in the Northern Italy. If the amazing people and the stunning architecture are already two very valid reasons to love this city, food is the icing on the cake – Bologna is also called “la grassa” (the fat one), for the culinary traditions that made Italian cuisine appreciated worldwide: tortellini, piadine, tagliatelle, lasagne, and more and more amazing products are from this stunning city.
Balanzoni pasta is one of them, they are inexplicably not as famous as products above, but they are equally good. Originally invented to use up the remains of ravioli filling that would otherwise go wasted, their recipe evolved over the years, to become nowadays a first class quality product. Here is the recipe, I hope you love it as much as I do!
Ingredients for 4 people:
For the pasta dough:
-boiled and squeezed spinach, 40g
-nutmeg, a pinch
-salt, a pinch
For the filling:
-ricotta, 250g drained overnight
-grated parmigiano reggiano, 100g
-pepper, a pinch
For the sauce: only butter
1.Blend the spinach or chop them very finely
2. Mix together the ingredients for the dough: flour, eggs, salt, nutmeg and the chooped/blended spinach. Keep kneading until you get a smooth texture
3. Cover the dough in cling film for 30 minutes
4. In the meantime, prepare the filling: blend the mortadella or chop it super finely
5.Mix the mortadella with the ricotta,parmigiano, eggs and pepper
6.Take 1/4 of the dough (cover the rest with the cling film), and using a rolling pin flatten the dough until it is 1.5/2 mm wide
7.Cut the dough in squares of about 5cm per side
8. Put one teaspoon of filling in the centre of the square
9.Wet the edges of the squares with some water, close the balanzoni to form a triangle, and then put together 2 extremities, putting you finger in the centre to make an hole, like in this video I posted on my instagram page:
10.Boil some water and cook the balanzoni for 3 minutes
11.Put 3 tablespoon of butter in a plate, drain the balanzoni and place them on the plate to melt the butter