Fri, 06/11/2010 - 08:28

They call us the bamboccioni”, sighed a student of mine – a pleasant 32-year-old with a law degree and excellent English – last week. I knew the term , a 2007 coinage of former Economy Minister Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa to denote young adults who continue to live with their parents. In 2008 71.9% of Italian adults aged 20 – 30 were still living in the parental home and the numbers are increasing in a period of economic hardship.

The student in question is a young man who would gladly flee the parental nest if he could and his situation humiliates and upsets him. What is the use, he would ask, of Civil Service Minister Renato Brunetta’s proposal to force young adults to leave home when there are no jobs for them to go to? For if it is difficult all over Italy for young people to find work, it is doubly so in Sicily which has a higher unemployment rate than the mainland. This is partly because some traditional jobs in the agricultural sector no longer exist and partly because the old ways of obtaining work through influential contacts or even of inheriting a job persist.

“I’ll never get a job. I don’t know any important people”, says my student.

Job candidates have to put themselves through a series of complicated public competitions in Italy and usually it helps you “win” one of these if you know a politician or prominent businessman who can give you a recommendation.

“I don’t have time for hobbies”, continues my sad young man. “I spend my days sending my CV out and entering the competitions.”

If my student does eventually find work in Italy, his struggle will not, I’m afraid, end there because it is much more difficult to move up the ladder here than it is in Britain or the US. All the Sicilians I have spoken to about the recent UK election were amazed at the result and not because of the historic coalition government. People are simply astounded that men as young as Cameron and Clegg can reach the highest positions in government and no wonder, when you look at the ages of Italian ministers. Here even the members of Mr Lippi’s World Cup squad are “old” for footballers! And have you ever wondered why there are so many Italian hairdressers in the UK? They go there because in Italy they would never get an opportunity to do the cutting. Only the salon owner does that, while his assistants have to be content with washing, sweeping and straightening.

However, if some of the “bamboccioni” have had their state thrust upon them, it has to be said that there are others who just don’t want to leave. My friend Gina’s son Daniele is one of these. He does now spend weekdays in Catania, where he is at university, but every Friday afternoon he catches the bus home to Modica and Gina spends her entire weekend cooking food for him to take back on Sunday night. Gina is a busy professional woman but she wouldn’t dream of suggesting that her son could have the occasional meal out, learn to cook at least a plate of pasta or exercise a little independence. Yet I have to admit that Daniele seems none the worse for not participating in drunken binges with his student friends every Saturday night and that, if I were him, I might come home for Mum’s cooking too!

Here is Gina’s recipe for tagliatelle al forno:

To make this, you need to have prepared a quantity of ragù - enough to spread twice over the contents of the oven dish you will be using and without too much meat in it - beforehand. You can do this well in advance and freeze it. On the day you wish to assemble the dish, you also need to fry some thin aubergine slices in olive oil before following the instructions below:

For 8 people:
Cook half a kilo of egg tagliatelle until al dente. Drain and put half into the base of an oven dish. Mix with half the ragù. Spoon some grated caciocavallo cheese over the mixture , then add some chopped, fresh ricotta and some chopped provoletta. Now put in the aubergine slices, some slices of salame [or ham if you prefer] and, if you wish, some chopped hard-boiled egg. Cover with the rest of the pasta, the rest of the ragù and some more grated cheese. Cook in a hot oven [200 - 220 C] for about half an hour. Cut like a cake and serve.

Worth coming home for…..