The French love pasta. 500,000 tonnes are consumed each year. Every Saturday dinner through its series “Pasta così! », 20 minutes teaches you how to prepare your pasta well or introduces you to a recipe. Today heading south to Nice, where, thanks to the influence of neighboring Italy, there is no shortage of varieties. And the one we are going to present to you is particularly original.
On the side of the Promenade des Anglais, there are therefore not only stuffed foods, socca and pissaladière. There is also stewed ravioli, pasta with pesto and… merda dé (or di) can! Literally “dog shit” in Nissart. Yes, yes, that is the name of these derivatives of gnocchi that are an integral part of the traditional local cuisine.
With Swiss chard, a plant widely used in Nice cuisine
And if their name obviously makes you smile, their taste is sure to make everyone agree. Made, like their cousins, from potatoes, they get a green color thanks to the addition of chopped chard leaves. A plant that is widely used in local gastronomy (and even in a sweet version in a delicious pie). “It’s not for nothing that we call Niçois ‘Li Caga Bléa'”, laughs Franck Viano, head of the Cuisine Niçoise collective.
Like gnocchi, whose first mentions can be found in the 15th century, merda may also have existed for five centuries, the specialist explains. And even today, the recipe is passed down from generation to generation and is above all found on festive tables. Some confectioners still make them. “But very few restaurants offer them à la carte”, notes Anthony Bastiand, the manager of L’Escalinada, an establishment at the gate of Old Nice, which is a hit with this speciality.
Served with a tomato sauce, gorgonzola…
On site, the chef merda prepares the tin by hand, precisely to ensure that they regain their typical, ogival and irregular shape. After mixing wheat flour, mashed potatoes, chopped chard, eggs, salt, pepper and olive oil, roll out the resulting dough into sausages of approx. 1 cm in diameter. And detail them into small sections to be shaped, one by one, between the palms. As for the gnocchi, count 1 minute 30 of cooking in boiling water as soon as the pasta has resurfaced.
“We offer them with pesto [le pesto niçois], with a tomato and basil sauce, with gorgonzola, with Niçoise stew or even with a truffle sauce. But merda de can can also be eaten simply with olive oil and Parmesan,” explains Anthony Bastiand.
“It is original and maybe also, thanks to the chard, a little lighter than the gnocchi”, slice, in the restaurant, Nicolas Barthe, a fan of this speciality.