Franco Lombardo’s Pasta Rustica are an ode to fresh produce and Sicily

Franco Lombardo and his mother, Rosa Prestigiacomo, used to argue often on the flat. What exactly should they call the bowl of broken linguine and broth-splashed fresh vegetables he grew up eating during the summers of his youth in Palermo?

“My mother used to say, ‘It’s pasta!’ I would say: ‘No! It’s a soup! So, we finally agreed: it’s Summer Soup!

The dish now called Pasta Rustica which is often served as a special dish at Lombardo Sapori Trattoria Italiana in Collingswood is a hybrid, with pasta cooked and served to order, then floated with seasonal produce in a pool of broth just shallow enough to keep it moist. It’s exactly the kind of soulful, home-style specialty that has set Sapori apart in its 19 years of charm from the abundance of cookie-cutter Italian cuisines elsewhere in the area (not to mention Collingswood). Its hearty country sausage and rib stew is another must-try gem.

What’s clear about Pasta Rustica is that it’s easily adaptable to showcase the freshest produce around – sweet peas and artichokes during our early summer visit – simmering in broth only long enough to cook the linguine al dente. As the summer progresses, Lombardo replaces the peas with other legumes, such as fresh Borlotti or cranberry beans, Umbrian lentils, fresh favas or green chickpeas.

“This dish is more a technique than a recipe. In general, I really don’t measure anything. But I know how it must taste and I can replicate that flavor,” says Lombardo, 46, who arrived in Philadelphia at age 20 and cooked at La Locanda del Ghiottone before starting his own restaurant. “Cooking this dish reminds me of a stage in my life in Italy, and mom too.”

A constant is a savory chicken broth enriched with olive oil and smoked pancetta, as well as a soffrito base of carrots, onions and celery. But also broken linguine. This might seem like heresy to a pasta purist who believes that pasta shapes don’t have to be complicated. But it is essential to the functionality of this dish.

“(The pasta) has to be a certain size – about an inch long – because you want to be able to eat it with a spoon. It also needs dry pasta, because its starch thickens the broth during cooking,” he said. he said, “It was my child’s work whenever my mother and grandmother, Ninnina, made these legumes when they were in season. They said, ‘Here’s a kilo of pasta. Start breaking them, kid! »

And with that – crack! instantaneous! simmer! – the batch of another season of “Summer Soup” had begun.

Sapori Trattoria Italiana, 601 Haddon Ave, Collingswood; 856-858-2288