From Puglia. This dish looks fairly impressive, but is in fact quite easy to do. Spaghetti or linguine is mixed with seafood, and baked in the oven. The pasta absorbs the flavours from the seafood and the sauce is concentrated wonderfully. I had this dish at a restaurant near here “Zia Teresa” in Torre a Mare a while back. They served it using foil packets, but some people use greaseproof paper. Make one large package, or as I prerfer, one package per person. The recipe is really just a guide. The seafood is different from chef to chef and from day to day, depending on what is available. Include some kind of mollusc, like mussels or clams, something from the squid family, like calamari or octopus and something from the prawn family like prawns, scampi and shrimps. Some people also include a little fish, about 200 g, such as red mullet, sea bream or bass. Serves 4.
350 g spaghetti
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and bruised
1 kg of fresh tomatoes
200 g unpeeled raw prawns/shrimps
350 g clams (vongole veraci)
500 g mussels
200 g baby octopus or baby squid
A large sprig of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2 chillis (optional, use the chillis which you are used to. It is usually made quite mild here)
Dry white wine
Wash the mussels and clams under cold running water and pull the beards off. Put them into a large pan along with a clove of garlic, the parsley and half a glass of wine. Put on a high heat until all the shellfish are open. Remove most of them from the shells (you leave a few whole for garnish, if you like) and reserve the cooking liquid, strained if need be.
Blanch the tomatoes for a few seconds in boiling water, and then peel and deseed them. Roughly chop.
Heat about 4 tablespoons of oil in a large pan with the remaining 2 cloves of garlic. When they have browned, remove them from the oil. Add the octopus or squid, and cook over a medium heat for about 5 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add the cooking liquid from the shell-fish and the chopped chillis (leave them whole if you want to remove them at the end of cooking) and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add the unpeeled prawns and cook for a further 5 minutes. If you’d prefer to peel the prawns you can, but you’ll be losing quite a lot of flavour.
Cook the pasta about half the time recommended time on the packet. Drain and mix with the sauce.
Use a large square of kitchen foil, or 4 smaller ones for individual portions. Bring all 4 sides up and pinch together the corners, so you have a sort of foil “basket”. Fill each pouch with the pasta and fold over the top to close. Dont close them too tightly, leave some room. Bake in an oven preheated to 200°c for about 10 minutes.
Unwrap the package or packages at the table and have some finger bowls and napkins handy.
From Puglia. This is another very simple recipe that I cook a lot when green beans are in season. The pictures have been sitting on my computer for a while, so they are no longer in season, but should be fairly easy to get. The recipe uses ricotta marzottica or dura, which is hard to get outside Italy. The best substitute is grana or parmesan. Don’t use regular ricotta, it’s a different thing completely. The beans are cooked for quite a long time and you might consider them to be overcooked, but it works well with the pasta. If you prefer, you could add the beans along with the spaghetti.Serves 4.
Spaghetti al cacio e pepe. From Rome. This is another recipe that I cook a lot, but have never got around to posting. Spaghetti (vermicelli is a synonym for spaghetti) with pecorino and black pepper sauce. Anyone who has ever been to Rome will know it. It seems like almost every trattoria there has it on the menu. It is very simple, just three ingredients, but one of my favourite ways to eat pasta. It is always worth spending a little more to get really good quality ingredients, but it is especially important to use good cheese with this dish. Use a good Pecorino Romano DOC (PDO). Serves 4.
Roughly crack the pepper corns. You can use a pestle and mortar, or as I do a coffee grinder. How much you add is a matter of taste, but it’s very important that it should be freshly ground. Don’t grind it too finely.
Cook the pasta until it is al dente and drain, reserving some of the cooking water.
Spaghetti al cacio e pepe mixing the pasta
Mix the pasta together with some of the cooking water and most of the cheese. You should obtain a creamy sauce that coats the spaghetti well. If the sauce is too wet, add some more cheese. Likewise, if the sauce is too dry, add some more cooking water. Add the pepper and mix again. Serve topped with the rest of the cheese.
Spaghetti con le cozze. This is a recipe that I cook a lot, but have never got round to posting. I, like the Barese, love mussels. They are always cheap and are available all year. Here the size changes with the season, but you can make this dish with big or small mussels, it doesn’t matter. They say that the smaller ones have a better flavour. Some people open the mussels raw for this dish. To be honest the flavour is probably marginally better, but I am not very good at opening them so I never have time. If you are adept at opening mussels, feel free to remove the shells before adding them, but don’t forget to include any water that comes out. Some people also remove the shells after they have opened. Again, it depends on my mood, but I usually don’t.You can also use fresh or tinned tomatoes.
1kg Mussels weighed with the shells
1 clove of garlic
500g peeled tomatoes
A few sprigs of chopped parsley
Chilli (optional to taste, can be fresh or dried)
Sauté the garlic for a few minutes so that it softens, but doesn’t brown.
Add the chilli (if fresh, if you are using dry, add it after the tomatoes)
Add the tomatoes and cook for a few minutes.
Add the mussels and cook uncovered over a medium heat until they are all open
Basil is very much in season here at the moment, so I bought a couple of bunches at the market and decided to make pesto.I dug out the official recipe from Consorzio Pesto Genovese. It’s very specific about exactly where the ingredients should come from. I’m providing the original recipe, but feel free to substitute ingredients from another region. eg. Basil not from Genoa 🙂 The recipe also calls for a pestle and mortar. This is undoubtably the best way, but you can get very acceptable results using a blender. Just put all the ingredients in a blender and blitz until almost smooth. Serves 6
2 Tbsp Pecorino (romano, toscano, sardo or siciliano)
2 cloves of garlic (can be omitted)
1 Tbsp pine kernels (from the Mediterranean area)
1 tbsp chopped walnuts can be substituted for the pine kernels (must be European from the species “Juglans regia”)
Coarse sea salt
The traditional method uses a wooden pestle(where the dish gets its name from in a round about way) and a marble mortar. Start by pounding the garlic and salt until you get a smooth paste.
Add the basil, a handful at a time, and keep grinding using a circular motion until each batch of the leaves is incorporated. To preserve the essential oils in the basil, you shouldn’t be too rough with it.
Add the pine kernel and grind some more.
Add the cheese and mix well.
Add the oil, little by little, until the pesto has the right consistency – a matter of taste.
Serve with pasta or added to minestrone. The recommended pastas are troffie, trofiette or trenette, but it goes with just about any pasta. I usually serve it with spaghetti or linguine.