Fettuccine alla papalina -The Pope’s Fettuccine
Mit brennender Sorge
History is a living thing, and whether ancient or recent, it is an exciting thing. Consider the Catholic Church, from tales of intrigue and blackmail, to Vatileaks, the sexual abuse scandal, and all the way to the Vatican Bank, it has some of the most exciting history of all. Even now she makes history as her princes have joined in conclave and elected a new Supreme Pontiff.
Man has but a few thousand years of recorded history, and so I am calling the late 1930′s recent. And nothing looms larger in recent history than Adolf Hitler and Nazism. Take for example the case of two popes, both named Pius, and that most infamous son of Austria. The relationship between the Third Reich and the Catholic Church has consumed historians for over seventy years. It’s a fluid sort of relationship – with new opinions being written and new information and research continuing even now.
History intersects and entwines with every aspect of life. With Easter coming around and the election of a new Pope, I thought I’d devote some space to one of the most unique Papal Encyclicals ever produced, Mit brennender Sorge (With Burning Anxiety.) The year was 1937, and Pius XI occupied the Chair of St. Peter. Adolf Hitler was the Fuhrer and Reich Chancellor of Germany. By this time the Bishop of Rome had come to view the Reich Chancellor as an enemy of Christ bent on the destruction of the church. Further, he believed abuses committed against the Catholic Church, such as threats and violence, dismissals, trials and imprisonment of Catholic priests and nuns, were the work of Hitler himself. To combat this and to support the German bishops he put forth Mit brennender Sorge, an encyclical written not in the usual Latin, but in German, dated March 14, 1937. Authored largely by his Secretary of State, one Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, the encyclical was smuggled into Germany and clandestinely printed.
The Catholic underground, in a marvel of exquisite organization, mobilized to distribute it to churches across Germany, enlisting volunteers, many of whom were boys on bicycles. Copies were passed directly into the hands of priests, sometimes in the confessional, sometimes in the dark of night. At no point was it entrusted to the German postal service. The encyclical detailed Nazi abuses and made clear the Third Reich’s plan to dismantle the Catholic Church. It exhorted the faithful to extend their charity and live as Christians. This denunciation of Nazism was read simultaneously from pulpits across Germany on March 21, 1937, Palm Sunday.
Enraged, Hitler ordered the presses upon which it had been printed destroyed or confiscated. A new wave of arrests began followed by show trials and further censorship. Even children who distributed copies of the pamphlets after it had been read were detained.
Over the course of World War II Hitler and his war machine murdered thousands of Catholic clerics across Europe. Catholic schools were shuttered and churches closed. Catholic publications were heavily censored or closed down entirely. Yet, for all their efforts, the Nazis were unable to succeed in their ultimate goal. And this is where the great continuum of history intersects with life in real time. This week, with the rest of the world, I watched as the Church elected a new Pope, and I realized that 1.2 billion human beings today identify themselves as Catholics. Rebuke enough for Hitler.
And where, you are wondering, does the fettuccine come in? Cardinal Pacelli, principal author of Mit brennender Sorge, had a favorite pasta dish of fettuccine enrobed in a cream sauce with sauteed onions, prosciutto and Parmigiano. In 1939 after the death of Pope Pius XI, Cardinal Pacelli was elected Pope. He took the name Pius XII, and the dish was given the name Fettuccine alla papalina. It’s history, and you gotta love it.
Finding the recipe was a bit of serendipity too. Last week I began to read Italian food historian Oretta Zanini De Vita’s new book Popes, Peasants, and Shepherds: Recipes and Lore from Rome and Lazio. Between the covers I found an absolute treasure trove, an enticing, beautifully written look at one of Italy’s less explored but tradition rich cuisines. I also found the story of this pasta dish. More intersecting and entwining.
Fettuccine alla papalina depends on the heat of the melted butter and just cooked pasta to bring the eggs to a food-safe temperature. If you are concerned about food borne illness see Food Nerd Notes below for information on pasteurized eggs.
Use your favorite egg pasta recipe or a packaged dry product, and dine like the Bishop of Rome.
Food Nerd Notes:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that: Consumption of raw or undercooked eggs should be avoided, especially by young children, elderly persons, and persons with weakened immune systems or debilitating illness. Recipes containing eggs mixed with other foods should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160°F (71°C).
In-shell pasteurized Safest Choice Eggs from Davidson’s are widely available. At over $4.00/dozen, they are costly, but considering the risk of food borne illness, well worth the price. Visit the manufacturer’s website for purchasing information.
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I have no affiliation with any product, manufacturer, or site mentioned in this article.