[Sca-cooks] Taganu d'Aragona

Christiane christianetrue at earthlink.net
Tue Dec 15 12:35:27 PST 2009

Poking around the Internet for more information about the use of tuma cheese in Sicily, I found this intriguing recipe in About.com for taganu d'Aragona, a traditional pasta baked dish that some claim has been made in and around the town of Aragona, Sicily, since the 1600s. The origin of the word taganu itself is rather obscure; it could be from Arabic (either a type of dish or the name of ibn al-Thumna, the emir of Catania) or the Sicilian translation of the Italian word timbale.

Now, I've seen other Sicilian timbale and taganu recipes, and they've all included tomato sauce and also rice. This one intrigued me because it quite clearly didn't use tomato sauce, and instead has saffron, cinnamon, and chicken broth; it also ditches the rice.

This is made as an Easter dish, traditionally. Though not documentable as period, I'd call it periodoid. It may be possible for late-period Sicily, but it's certainly not the pasta dish Landi described.

Prep Time: 75 minutes

Cook Time: 2 hours


1 3/4 pounds (800 g) cavatuna or rigatoni
16 beaten eggs
1 1/3 pounds (600 g) tuma (a mild, creamy sheep's milk cheese), sliced
3 cups (150 g) grated well-aged pecorino
A pinch of cinnamon
A cup of hot chicken broth
A packet of saffron dissolved into the broth
8 slices day-old Italian bread
Abundant minced parsley
Salt & pepper
Meatballs and sliced hard-boiled eggs (optional)

Boil the rigatoni in salted water and drain them when they're still slightly al dente; while they're cooking take a terracotta pot large enough to hold everything, grease it well with lard, and lay four of the bread slices over the bottom of the pot. Beat the eggs and combine them with the parsley, grated cheese, and cinnamon. Drain the pasta when it's still slightly al dente, and transfer it to the pot, interlayering it with the sliced cheese and the egg mixture; when all is used up cover it with the remaining slices of bread, and the broth, in which you have dissolved the saffron. Put it all into a moderately hot (350 F, 175 C) oven, and bake until the liquid has been absorbed; it will take a while. 

Remove the taganu from the oven when it's firm but not bone dry, slice it and serve it. It will keep well for several days. 

Note: If you chose to use the meatballs or the eggs, mix them into the pasta.


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