4 Neapolitan Pastas for My Brilliant Friend

4 Neapolitan Pastas for My Brilliant Friend

Tonight the first two episodes of My Brilliant Friend will air on Rai1. I’ve been counting the days and everyone in Ischia is super excited to watch tonight especially because they filmed some scenes here in the late spring this year.

A few weeks ago, I came across an article on Food52 ‘10 Perfect Pastas for My Brilliant Friend Premier’. The recipes look delicious, but I thought wouldn’t it be even better if the pasta dishes were Neapolitan. So in celebration, I am sharing 4 Neapolitan pasta dishes to celebrate the four nights that Rai will air the episodes of My Brilliant Friend.

Continue reading “4 Neapolitan Pastas for My Brilliant Friend”

Enjoy!

Pasta alla Genovese

click on the title for the recipe

(Recipe by the lovely Rachel Roddy from her column in The Guardian)

Pasta alla Genovese via The Guardian, Rachel Roddy’s A Kitchen in Rome column

Don’t confuse this with pesto al genevose, which is the rich basil pesto that most are familiar with that comes from the Genoa region. Despite the name, this is a Neapolitan dish whose name comes from a family named Genovese that created the dish. This is basically a meat sauce made with minced meat, onions, carrots and celery with just a spoonful of tomato puree to make it a bit red. Serve the sauce with a large tubular pasta such as paccheri or rigatoni with this hearty sauce.

Lina and Lenu would have eaten this for a Sunday lunch or some kind of holiday.

Pasta con cozze e pecorino – Pasta with mussels and pecorino

click on the title for the recipe

(Recipe by Tina Ciccio from her blog Our Edible Italy)

Pasta con Cozze e Pecorino From Our Edible Italy

There is the general known Italian rule that you never serve cheese with fish, but that rule is broken with this classic dish served on the island of Ischia. You mix with mussels with a bit of pecorino cheese, not too much or else it will overpower the mussels, and serve with paccherri or mezza paccheri. I would even add some lemon zest to the sauce to get a citrusy, salty seafood pasta dish.

Lila and Lenu could have eaten this when they were on holiday in Ischia.

Frittata di Spaghetti – aka Spaghetti Pizza

click on the title for the recipe

(Recipe by Jaime Oliver and Gennaro Contaldo)

Pasta Frittata from JaimeOliver.com

If you’ve accidentally made too much pasta and have some leftovers, you can mix it with some eggs and cheese and fry it on the stove in a deep dish pan to make a spaghetti frittata. This is a classic Neapolitan dish that I grew up on. You can add all kinds of things to this like chopped dried sausage, mozzarella, a spicy provolone or whatever. You can serve it at room temperature or cold from the fridge (my favourite).

Perhaps Lila and Lenu would have eaten this as a picnic food for Easter Monday or would have brought it with them to the beach.

Spaghetti allo Scammaro

click on the title for the recipe

 (my own family recipe)

spaghetti allo scammaro and cooking
My family recipe of spaghetti allo scammaro

This is a Neapolitan dish that is typically made during Lent or any other fasting periods throughout the Catholic year. However, you can eat this year round since it’s a really light, cheap and easy dinner. This is one of my favourite pasta dishes and something we ate every Christmas Eve while growing up.

Lila and Lenu could have eaten this on Fridays as Fridays were generally fasting days and one didn’t eat meat.

***

Enjoy!

Back to cooking and Spaghetti allo Scammaro

Back to cooking and Spaghetti allo Scammaro

This blog post is part of the #DolceVitaBloggers link up from Mamma Prada, Italian at Heart and Questa Dolce Vita. Each month they pick a topic and open it up to all bloggers to join in. The topic for September is a favourite Italian recipe.

I went through a really long adjustment period during the move to Italy, starting from when we first started packing up our flat in London in September 2017 and ending sometime during the spring. I was overwhelmed by these big changes and I lost all interest in cooking and I couldn’t taste or enjoy food. It’s not that I turned anorexic and didn’t want to eat. I ate everything, but I didn’t care about eating like I normally did. I was numb.

But now things have been getting better. In April we moved to Forio, on the west side of the island, into a little yellow house with a garden. The house was furnished, but the kitchen just had the basics, so the first thing me and Marituccio did was put together the kitchen. We mounted shelves and bars to hang up our pots and pans and tools. We added a sideboard table and put a cutting board on top of the small fridge to add some more counter space.

Continue reading “Back to cooking and Spaghetti allo Scammaro”

I had a kitchen again and I started to cook. At first, I made a few simple dishes and rotated them during the week, slowly getting into it. Then in July, I went up to the Venice and got the rest of our stuff out of storage and shipped everything to Ischia. That meant our move was finally complete and home felt like home. Then I really started cooking the way I used to. Reading about food, trying new recipes and getting inspired. The days were long and hot with the cicadas booming, the door was always open with the cats coming in and out of the garden and I listened to podcasts and music while cooking. And the supermarket was down the road so I could do a daily shop picking up just what I needed for the day. And then Marituccio would come home from work and it would still be light out so we’d walk to the beach to watch the sunset. And then we’d come back and sit and eat.

I cooked and made all sorts of things this summer, trying new things and letting my mind lead me to wherever it wanted to go: A tomato tart, roasted aubergines, cantuccini, and zucchini flower pancakes. Grilled peaches with goat cheese and walnuts, red chilli compote with chillies from the garden and fish tacos. Steak pizzaiola, prosciutto and melon, gallons of gazpacho, and a spinach frittata in a cream of chickpeas. Fresh mayonnaise in tomato sandwiches, pea risotto, and roasted tomatoes.  I was chewing on the heart of summer, getting the most I could out of it.

Such a different feeling from all those months feeling numb and lost craving burgers, fries and hot dogs. Reading about food and looking through cookbooks and recipes online made me feel happy and settled again and I had a kitchen full of light where I could keep my cookbooks and hang up pictures and postcards. Of course the cats coming in and brushing against my leg or threatening to jump on the counter made it fun too. And the church bells ringing Ave Maria at 8 pm every night.

One of my favourite dishes that I made this summer is a dish we ate every Christmas Eve while I was growing up. You would think that during those hot humid days I would avoid eating anything that would remind me of the winter, but this sweet and salty pasta dish made of olives, raisins and pine nuts felt like the perfect thing to eat. Growing up the dish didn’t have a name and I never saw any of my other aunts and uncles eat it, so it just seemed like it was our thing. But one day when the craving hit me, I googled the ingredients and I found Spaghetti allo Scammaro.

It’s actually a 19th century Neapolitan recipe back when Napoli was under Bourbon control. The Duke of Buonvicino, Ippolito Cavalcanti, first prepared this dish for the fasting monks during Lent and the other fasting days (called in Italian i giorni magri -skinny days). The recipe was added to his book Cucina Teorico-Pratica in 1837 and it quickly became part of the Neapolitan cucina povera.  It’s nice to know that we were following an old Neapolitan tradition after all by making this on Christmas Eve.

The Neapolitan word scammaro originates from the monks in the monasteries. During Lent, the monks who were unwell and were permitted to eat meat ate their meals in their rooms (cammere in dialect) so as not to disturb the other fasting monks. So the word cammerare (to eat inside your room) became synonymous with eating heavy fatty carnivorous meals while scammerare (to eat outside of your room) meant eating light vegetarian or fish-based meals.

I guess it made sense getting this craving over the summer when it was too hot to cammerare. It’s a quick easy light dish and goes great with a glass of white wine from the fridge and a peach or fig for dessert.

 

spaghetti allo scammaro and cooking
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Spaghetti allo Scammaro

Quick light pasta dish for your 'giorni di magro'.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 2

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp raisins
  • 2 tsp capers
  • 20 gr pine nuts
  • half handful gaeta olives
  • 1 anchovy in oil
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • chopped parsley
  • grated parmigiano (optional)
  • 160 g spaghetti

Instructions

  1. Leave the raisins to soak in a bowl with warm water. Remove the pits from the olives and roughly chop. Toast the pine nuts in a pan over a low flame for under a minute. Watch closely and don’t let them burn. Once toasted, set aside.

  2. Add oil to the pan. Add the anchovy and once it dissolves add a crushed garlic clove.

  3. Add the olives, raisins and capers and cook until soft and covered in oil. Add in the toasted pine nuts. Remove from heat.

  4. In the meantime, add the spaghetti to the boiling water. You’ll want this to be al dente so remove two minutes before the suggested cooking time on the packet. Reserve some cooking water.

  5. Add the pasta and a ladle of cooking water to the pan with the sauce and put it on a low flame and mix until the sauce becomes rich and creamy and sticks to the pasta.

  6. Add chopped parsley and grated parmigiano if desired.

Recipe Notes

Note: Most of the ingredients in this dish are salty so it would be easy to make this dish too salty. Play around with the measurements. I add more raisins to balance the saltiness and I put just a bit of salt in the water before I throw in the pasta.

I’ve seen some posts online where this recipe is taken to the next level in which breadcrumbs are added and it is fried so it becomes a frittata without the eggs. Crazers! The frittata could be a great vegan dish (if you leave out the anchovies and cheese) to bring to a party or picnic.spaghetti allo scammaro and cooking

spaghetti allo scammaro and cooking

spaghetti allo scammaro and cooking

 

Enjoy!

Click on the picture to learn more about the #dolcevitabloggers link up
Moving, cooking, and homesick blues

Moving, cooking, and homesick blues

Moving is difficult in a way that many don’t talk about. It’s a psychological upheaval, a dismantling of home. I was prepared for the culture shock, but I don’t think I was prepared for this feeling of the kitchen I’ve lost. There are all kinds of excitement and we’re settling in, finding a more permanent place to live and Marituccio found a job, but I’m also mourning my sense of home and place.

While I was preparing for the move to Italy, every time I was struck with terror, the what-ifs and the whys of moving, I would calm myself down by thinking about all the things I would be able to cook and eat once I was in Italy. I’d imagine the kitchen, my cookbooks and all the food I’d find in the markets.

And now that I’m here I keep wrinkling my nose or feeling weirdly blasé at the bounty. Fresh fish from the fishing boats that arrive in front of my window every morning? Ho-hum. My eyes glaze over the tangerines that are falling from the heavy trees. Inside the bakery I pass by the fresh warm loaves of bread that are almost steaming and grab a box of crackers.  I’m someone who can eat cheese 24 hours a day and I will stand in front of the cheese counter and take it all in and then walk away with nothing. Only sometimes a lemon tree will catch my eye and its sharp yellow vision jolts its way through the ennui into my heart and I’ll notice it and think, ‘o wow, isn’t that something.’ Continue reading “Moving, cooking, and homesick blues”

Moving
Fisherman at Ischia Ponte

Moving

It’s so beautiful here and this part of the world is where I’ve lived my most important and special and favourite childhood moments. I should be ecstatic, shouldn’t I? And there are wonderful things happening, I’ve been meeting people, making friends, getting to know other writers, drinking coffee at the bar, talking long walks along the sea front, hiking in the hills, watching the sun rise on one part of the island and then watching it set on the other side, listening to and absorbing the Neapolitan dialect and smiling and laughing at this familiar language that makes me feel at home. And yet?

I don’t like the food. I go shopping with Marituccio and let him cook and I eat and I don’t feel anything. Fuck the fresh fish and escarole. I want to eat burgers, ramen noodles and Chinese take away and make a Moroccan tagine stew with preserved lemons and za’tar. I want to eat shredded wheat for breakfast and beans on toast and a fried egg. I want a roast chicken with gravy and cranberry sauce. I want to eat an omelette with a slice of chevre cheese and a salad of wilted greens while listening to the BBC.

Moving

I miss the cooking that makes me feel at home, cozy, taking care of myself and Marituccio. At the moment, cooking is awkward, full of doubts, testing and wondering. I’ve tried making my mom’s recipes that come from the island, but I keep messing them up. And then I eat and there’s numbness, a pastiche of memories that don’t fit into my life right now.

Moving
Roccoco, Neapolitan Christmas cookies

Years ago, when I first moved to Rome, the first meal I cooked for myself was hot dogs and I would often get intense cravings for McDonald’s during those first months. Hot dogs and McDonald’s are things I hardly ever eat, but I did eat them when I was a kid, so I suppose I was looking for something comforting during those lonely, unfamiliar and difficult months. Right now I’m still shell-shocked and bamboozled. It’s like a bomb went off and I’m just emerging from the bunker waiting for the air to clear. Once it does, I’ll probably go to the garden and make myself something really good to eat and feel relieved.

Moving
I made bracciola for our first Sunday lunch in Ischia

 

Recipe: How to Make (or not make) La Pizza Rustica Napoletana

Recipe: How to Make (or not make) La Pizza Rustica Napoletana

This past Saturday morning I was home and watching the Archway Farmer’s Market happening just outside the flat. I could see the cheese and salame stands from the window and I got a craving for something my mom used to make called ‘La Pizza Rustica’ – a cheese bomb of paradise that she made for Easter, made of ricotta mixed with eggs, grated parmigiano, and cubes of any other hard cheese and salame. She only made it once a year, thank god she did, because with one bite I could feel it making a bee-line for my thighs.

The word pizza may seem like a misnomer since what we think of as traditional pizza from Napoli is nothing this covered pie of decadence; although this is a Neapolitan recipe.

I had never made it before, but I like trying to make things my mother made and it makes me feel a little bit closer to her. So I went shopping downstairs at the market and with a little bit of help from Davide and the internet, I set out to make it. In the end it came out good, just the way I remembered it, but there was a little snaffu while cooking it that kind of made it look disgusting. But still, it’s too delicious to not share with you, so I’ll tell you how to make and how not to make this Pizza Rustica Italiana.

Continue reading “Recipe: How to Make (or not make) La Pizza Rustica Napoletana”

(Other recipes call for a rich dough using suet, sugar, eggs, flour and butter and require you to bake the whole thing in the oven. Mamma used a simple pizza dough of flour and water and she then cooked it on the stove.)

La Pizza Rustica Napoletana

Equipment:

1 deep dish pan that you can cook on the stove (alternatively you can use a round dish that you can put in the oven because flipping it during cooking gets a bit tricky.)

1 rolling pin

Mixer (optional)

Dough

400 g all-purpose flour

200 g water

10 g yeast

salt

Filling

600 g ricotta

200 g milk

100 g grated parmigiano, pecorino or other hard cheese (I used a Trentingrana that comes from Trentino in the upper North East corner of Italy)

100 g of cubes of hard cheese (I used piave stravecchia)

100g of assorted dried salame cut into cubes (you could use ham too, especially if you don’t want it to be too salty)

1 egg yolk

sunflower oil

Instructions

1. For the dough, mix the yeast with the water and then mix it with the dough. You can use a mixer for this to really mix and activate the yeast and get the dough nice and soft. Otherwise you can use your hands to mix it all together until you get a somewhat sticky ball of dough and then knead it with your hands on the counter. Once nice and soft, put it back in the bowl and cover it with a plate or towel and leave it to rest and rise while you make the filling.

Watch Davide show you how to do knead dough:

 

2. For the filling, put the ricotta, milk, grated cheese and egg yolk in a bowl and mix well. Add the cubes of cheese and salame.

3. When the dough is ready, cut it in half and roll out two circular pieces. Roll out a bigger piece which you’ll use to line the bottom and the sides of the pan. Be careful to not roll it too thin.

4. Line the pan and sides with sunflower oil. Then place the piece of dough at the bottom of the pan, pressing into the side and letting the excess dough fall over the rim.

IMG_5362

5. Spoon the filling into the pan.

6. Place the other disc of dough on top and fold in the sides. Dust a good amount of flour on top.

7. Cook the pizza on low heat for 10 minutes. If it starts to burn a little you can sneak in some more oil from the sides.

8. Flip the pizza over and cook for another 5-10 minutes.

*This is the tricky bit. Take a plate and put it upside down on top of the pan. Make sure the top of the pizza, the uncooked part, has some flour on it, otherwise the dough is going to stick to the plate. With one hand on top of the plate, lift the pan and turn it over so the pizza rests on top of the plate with the cooked top facing up. Slide the pizza back into the pan.  (My problem was that I rolled the dough to thin so the filling exploded into an oozy doughy mess when I tried to flip it.

 

An oozy, cheesy, broken mess.
An oozy, cheesy, broken mess.

9. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Place on a plate and refrigerate it for a few hours. Some people wait 24 hours, but I couldn’t wait that long.

Broken but still delicious the way I remembered it.
Broken but still delicious the way I remembered it.

 

Recipe: Cannellini Summer Soup

Recipe: Cannellini Summer Soup

After a week of eating like pigs in Venice, I came back craving a simple soup my mom used to make during the summer. She used to make this whether we were in Napoli or back in the Hudson Valley with beans and tomatoes from the garden.

This soup is perfect for one of those hot lazy summer evenings where all you want to do is just sit at the table and listen to the insects outside. (Difficult to do in London, but that’s what imagination is for.) All you do is dump the ingredients into a pot of water and fire up the stove. Once it starts to boil, the sweet shallots open up their pores and the kitchen fills up with the smell of a savoury garden. With just a tiny bit of oil and salt at the end, it feels so good It’s so good and makes you feel like you’re cleaning your insides with a hose of beans.

Continue reading “Recipe: Cannellini Summer Soup”

Cannellini Summer Soup

 

Cannellini Summer Soup

500 grams of fresh or dried (soaked) cannellini beans (or 2 cans)

a big healthy handful of cherry tomatoes

2 bay leaves

2-3 shallots

a clove of garlic (crushed with the palm of your hand)

salt

 

Garnishes:

olive oil

parsely or basil

grated parmigiano or other hard cheese (I used Piave Stravecchio from the Veneto region. When we come to visit, my mother-in-law ships us back home with half a suitcase of cheese.)

 

1. Chop the shallots in small chunks, not too fine.

2. Wash and chop the tomatoes in half.

3. Put in a pot the shallots, garlic, bay leaves, tomatoes, and beans with about a liter of water.

4. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer. If using fresh or dried beans, simmer for 40 minutes. If using canned or already cooked beans, cook for 20 mins.)

5. Add salt to taste just at the end.

6. Serve with a spiral of olive oil, some chopped parsley or basil leaves, and some grated cheese on top. It’s nice hot, lukewarm, or even cold.