I always say that I don’t believe I’m a chef. I try to be a storyteller. – Jose Andres
I’ve always been attracted to whimsical menu titles, I don’t know what captivates me so much, maybe I just love great stories and the history behind them. I suppose if I really had to analyze it further, I would have to admit it’s also good for business and allows restaurants and cooks to better connect with our audiences, and provide richer content to share with the press and social media channels.
Sguazabarbuz, beard splasher, is an Italian pasta and bean soup from Ferrara. The story starts that on May 29, 1503 Lucrezia Borgia, daughter of Pope Alexander VI, came to Ferrara to marry Alfonso d’Este, Duke of Ferrara. A steward of the Palace, taking inspiration from her golden locks, created this special pasta and bean soup in her honor. The pasta was cut into irregular strips resembled her hair.
The actual story is actually much longer and more complicated, with more plot twists than an Alfred Hitchcock thriller. Lucrezia was sort of a femme fatale, her father, Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia, had arranged several marriages into influential families to help build power for her power hungry family that was more than willing to spill blood in order to grow the family name.
Her first marriage to Giovanni Sforza enabled her father to ascend from a mere cardinal to Pope. When the marriage no longer gave the family benefit, her father had it annulled on the grounds that the relationship had never been consummated. While the deal was being negotiated, she had gotten pregnant by someone else, her first marriage ended on December 27th, 1497, and three months later she gave birth to an illegitimate son named coincedently named Giovanni. Stories swirled about the child being a product of incest, till two papal decrees later, Giovanni became son of Pope Alexander.
Her next marriage came in July of 1498 to Alfonso of Aragon, the 17-year-old Duke of Bisceglie and son of the late king of Naples. Lucrezia and Alfonso had a child, but unfortunately for Alfonso, Pope Alexander and Lucrezia’s brother Cesare sought a new alliance with France, and Lucrezia’s marriage to Alfonso was a major obstacle. On July 15, 1500, Alfonso narrowly survived a brutal murder attempt only to be strangled to death by Cesare’s goon squad while recovering from his earlier stab wounds.
After Alfonso’s death, Lucrezia’s father arranged for her to be married to Alfonso d’Este, Duke of Ferrara. Her new husband was rightfully hesitant because of the Borgia family reputation. The couple moved away from the in laws, thereby escaping the endless scheming of her power hungry father and brother. Lucrezia and Alfonso became the reigning duke and duchess of Ferrara where Lucrezia garnered a reputation as a patron of the arts.
You don’t have to kill your husband to enjoy this wonderful soup, try this simple recipe this weekend!
- 1 cup dried borlotti beans, soaked in cold water overnight
- 3 ounces pancetta, diced
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
- 2 carrots, finely chopped
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 4 sage leaves
- sea salt and black pepper, to taste
- ¼ cup chopped parsley
- ½ pound Maltagliati pasta, or tagliatelle
- Drain borlotti beans, cover with cold water and bring to boil. Reduce to simmer and cook till done, about 45 minutes.
- In a separate pan, sauté pancetta till lightly brown.
- Add onions, celery, carrots and cook till tender.
- Mash half the beans, and add with whole beans, chicken broth and herbs.
- When you are ready to eat, cook the fresh pasta and drop into the soup.
- Serve garnished with grated parmesan and flavorful olive oil drizzled over.