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When is Meat Not Meat? When It's In A Recipe That's Di Magro...

By June 2, 2009

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Not too long ago, I had a person tell me my recipe for Zucchine Ripiene di Magro, "Meatless" Stuffed Zucchini, is tantamount to false advertising because the ingredients list calls for pancetta, which is cured pork side. If one wants to be stringent, the person is clearly right.

However, there's something else at work here. A recipe that is di magro is considered suitable for days when the Church forbids meat -- in other words, it's meatless. How to account for the pancetta? Because until fairly recently Italians considered relatively small amounts of cured meats, especially pancetta or prosciutto, to be flavorings, and not meats per se.

Many modern Italians would make the dish truly di magro by omitting the meat, but out of respect for the old recipes and the traditons behind them, I decided to leave the pancetta or prosciutto called for in the ingredients lists, put the word meatless in quotes ("Meatless"), and tell a story:

About 25 years ago my father and I stopped in a trattoria out in the country south of Rome. He was trying to cut back on red meats, and thus ordered a frittata, specifying that he didn't want any meat with it -- he was assuming he'd get an onion frittata or perhaps one made with greens...

Instead, what arrived was a golden-yellow disk with several thick slabs of prosciutto. "But I said no meat!" said my father.

"Prosciutto isn't meat," replied the waitress, who clearly thought we were a little odd.

He sighed, and ate the frittata, prosciutto at all.

Bottom line: If you want to be quite traditional, you can include small amounts of pancetta, cured lard, or prosciutto in a recipe that's di magro, and as far as traditional Italians are concerned, it remains di magro. But there's nothing that says you must -- you can just as easily omit the offending ingredient, increasing the amount of salt slightly to compensate.

A Few Di Magro, Or "Meatless" Recipes And, A Few Recipes That Are Di Magro, Or Meatless, By Any Standard


June 5, 2009 at 5:24 pm
(1) LKL - French Language Guide says:

No, I acknowledged your point about “meatless” as the French feel the same way about charcuterie.

What I actually said was that your link on this page, http://italianfood.about.com/od/stuffedzucchinirecipes, was false advertising: “Zucchini with a Vegetarian Filling: Zucchine Ripiene di Magro.”

The word “meatless” may be debatable, but “vegetarian” is not.

Laura K. Lawless
Learn French at About

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