Perbureira: uncovering the secret
What is perbureira? Some say it's a soup of beans and lasagna noodles enriched with olive oil and raw garlic. Another might call it lasagne richly flavored with a sauce of beans with garlic, and lots of it. However it's thought of, this is a soup that I was very eager to tuck into at a trattoria in Piemonte. People rave about how delicious it is. It has its own weekend in the summer sagra circuit, with diehard fans standing in long lines for a portion in a cheap plastic bowl. What I'm about to share are pieces to a puzzle - make that a secret recipe kind of puzzle - that wouldn't have come together had I not spoken to a lady in a museum for masks.
Trattoria alla Rocca in Rocca Grimalda
A Slow Food listing, I had read nothing but positive reviews on this place where they serve traditional dishes in a simple yet refined atmosphere. When in Piemonte I always go for the mixed antipasti - the region is famous for its vast offerings of tasty bites (sorry, no photo). MotH had the tartare of Fassona beef (a piemontese breed) and followed up with a plate of stewed tripe and potatoes. I had that bowl of perbureira - beans, garlic and lasagne - but the surprising thing is that the soup itself didn't have any real garlicky flavor. I would venture to say that it was a little bit bland? Grated parmigiano and a tiny fragrant dish of finely chopped garlic in olive oil was served alongside it, allowing you to add as much as you wanted, or not. Apparently perbureira is so popular that each order comes out with a numbered marker - mine was the 4253rd serving in all the years that the trattoria has been open.
Sagra della Peirbuieira in Rocca Grimalda
Borlotti, garlic and lasagne soup
As a show of respect to the rocchesi (after all, it is their dish), the peirbuieira text in the image below is more like a watermark instead of the actual name of this soup. There are no additional seasonings other than salt & pepper; the garlic makes the mojo here. As the woman stated, it's how the soup is made, and the difference between home and restaurant is that in the latter, the soup itself is kept plain and served with a side dish of chopped garlic in olive oil. In this way it strikes a happy compromise between fans and non-fans of the stinking rose. The proper method would be to cook the beans WITH the garlic, and to cook fresh strips of lasagne IN the beans. If you calculated your spicchi d'aglio (garlic cloves) and added the just amount, what develops and turns out is an incredibly pungent and filling meal.
I'd like to add right now that garlic is no stranger to piemontese cuisine. Ever heard of the great bagna cauda? The season for that is upon us, and the recipe I'm giving for borlotti, garlic and lasagne soup is written in the manner in which that kind woman told me.
Soak the beans overnight in plenty of water [she mentioned borlotti]. Drain the following day and add to a pot with about 2 inches of water, along with several cloves of garlic [for a half pound of dried borlotti I added 6 fat cloves and also 1 cube for making vegetable broth]. Bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer, cover and cook until tender, adding water or broth as necessary. In the meantime, make a small batch of egg pasta, cut into wide strips and cut again into irregular pieces like maltagliati. When the beans are ready, remove about a cup and set aside. Puree the rest with an immersion blender. Add extra water/broth if need be to achieve the consistency that is neither too liquid nor porridge-like. Add the pasta and cook until done (it'll cook fast). Check seasonings with salt and pepper. Add the beans that were set aside and serve with grated parmigiano. At this point I don't think the dish needed any more garlic but for visual purposes and garlic-crazy fans, that extra kick of a raw bite was like a welcome punch in the mouth. Buon appetito!