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Baked rice, a popular song & an ancient job

baked rice with meat

baked rice

“Sciur padrun da li belle braghi bianchi fora le palanche, fora le palanche”. These words are in Italian dialect and I’ve learned them when I was 8. I still remember them because they tell a story that could easily have been that of my grandma’s mother: this song talks in fact about the “mondine” who are the women that, at the end of the spring, went in the fields to harvest rice. This kind of job became common in the second half of 1800 and it was a big cultural change: these women faced for the first time the job market as independent subject, earned an individual salary and, considering that often the job was far away from home, they had more freedom. Together with these positive changes there were the negative consequences: they were paid less then men and the job was exhausting. To harvest rice they bent for hours with cold and insane water up to their knees, in June and July they were surrounded by insects and it was common to take malarial fevers. But this strong work experience gave them also the opportunity to develop a consciousness of themselves as a group: in the second half of 1800 there were some strikes and they succeeded in increase their salary. After 100 years everything seems so poetic but this is a story about hard work, misery and constant fight to improve, something that makes me proud to be a woman: it’s great see that if 150 years ago the only choice for a poor peasant girl was to break her back in a rice field today we have so much opportunities. The simple possibility to choose is a gift. I hope you enjoyed this little piece of Italian cultural history and hope you will like the recipe. Of course Italy is famous for risotto, but it’s quite common to cook rice also in the oven like in the recipe that I propose you today. Buon appetito!



– 200 g of rice

– 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

– 1 onion (finely chopped)

– 300 g of minced beef

– 2 tablespoons of tomato sauce

– 50 g of parmesan cheese (grated)

– 150 g of smoked scamorza (or fontina cheese) in small cubes

– 100 g of ham (finely chopped)

– salt & pepper

Cook the rice in boiling water and drain it “al dente” and pour in a bowl. Por 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a  pan and fry lightly the onion, and the minced beef and cook for 5 minutes. When is quite ready add the tomato sauce. Cook for other 3 minutes and pour it over the rice. Add parmesan cheese, ham and scamorza, salt and pepper and toss well. Spread the mixture in a greased baking pan and cook for 40 minutes in preheated oven at 180°C (350°F). Buon appetito!

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. This baked rice dish sounds fabulous. My husband is a collector of folk music of all kinds and has in his collection an Italian CD called “Donne della Planura del Po” about the “Rice Girls'” songs from the 1950 and 1960s. Very interesting that the tradition lives on with your memory of the song!

    21 October 2013
  2. What a lovely piece of history you shared…I am forever indebted to these brave women who sacrificed so much to make life better for us.

    The baked rice sounds lovely.

    21 October 2013

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