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Behind the kitchen door of Conca del Sogno – Amalfi Coast

I have always wondered what was “cooking” behind the kitchen door of a great restaurant. This time I had the privilege (and what a privilege) to witness some of the most delicious recipes – and secrets – of the Southern Italian cuisine.

You all might wonder how come I have this access to the kitchen of one of the best restaurants in Amalfi Coast – Conca del Sogno. Well,  this is because my husband’s grandfather was one of the first customers of the Tizzani family, the owners of this wonderful restaurant, so they know my husband’s family since they started this business. My husband always tells me his grandfather Enzo used to be quite a personality. Whenever “nonno” Enzo visited Conca del Sogno, he would sneak into the kitchen to see what the chef and the cooks where preparing. One of the things I regret from not meeting my husband before, is not having the opportunity to meet his grandfather. Mr. Vincenzo not only was a great person, but had an incredible  sense of humor, and my husband always says we would have gotten along so well – I would have become his grandfather’s perfect joking around pal.

So to honor nonno Enzo’s memory, and to follow his tradition, I went inside Conca del Sogno’s kitchen to get some wonderful recipes.

I will begin with a simple…

Spaghetti with cherry tomatoes and basil

Ingredients

The following are approximate quantities:

  • 100 grams of spaghetti
  • about 1 cup of ripe cherry tomatoes cut into 4 halves each
  • 2-3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 crushed garlic clove
  • some fresh basil leaves (torn with hands into pieces)
  • salt to taste

Method

In a pot – over medium high heat – add extra olive oil. After 1 minute, add crushed garlic, and some basil leaves, and cook for about 1-2 minutes. Add cherry tomatoes. Reduce heat to medium. Cook until  juice from tomatoes  infuses well  into extra virgin olive oil. Notice how the color of olive oil changes with pictures. To get a homogeneous sauce, the secret to this recipe is slow cooking. Since it was hard to keep track of time in a busy kitchen, it is difficult to give an exact amount of time. Therefore,  my advice is to keep an eye on the sauce until you get the same sauce consistency of the far right picture on the second row (click on the pictures for a better view).

This is the pasta cooking station. It has two rectangular pots (or fountains) with three pasta colanders (or baskets) each – meaning that you can cook up to 6 different pasta formats at a time. The water boils continuously at a steady temperature, and it is already salted with coarse salt.

Adding spaghetti!!!

While cooking pasta, one of the cooks told me: ” Pasta should be cooked al dente,  and we like it almost raw”! Wow!!!! He added: ” I remove pasta from boiling 1 or 2 minutes before it’s done since I then transfer it into the pot containing the sauce to continue the cooking process”. Another Wow!!!

Draining spaghetti.

Adding pasta to tomato sauce.

The blending process is a very crucial step when preparing this dish. Since the cooks remove pasta from the boiling pot before it is completely cooked, they finish cooking it by blending it with the sauce.  One of the secrets of this sauce is to add some pasta cooking water. Below, the step by step process. Notice how the color of pasta changes through the different photos; this took about 3 minutes, until tomato sauce had clung well to spaghetti (click on the pictures for a better view).

Before proceeding, a fascinating view of the kitchen and the excellent, hard-working cooking crew.

Plating the dish. Behind the tomato pasta, you can see a stunning zucchini pasta dish (but this one is the restaurant’s secret recipe not to be shared!!)

Eccola!! (Here it is!)

No tricks, no top-secret restaurant ingredients, or magic potions. Just fresh, high quality ingredients, with a slow and wise traditional cooking method – just as Italian grandmas used to make.

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25 Comments Post a comment
  1. Beautiful, such a great simple recipe, that takes precision too. Just lovely. What a visual treat.

    August 19, 2011
  2. How lovely to go behind the scenes and share the process with us. I absolutely love the photo of the one strand of pasta hanging from the pan. Just perfect!

    August 19, 2011
    • What a great observation!!! Jejeje …I planned that..when the cook was plating the dish, I said: Stop!!..I need to make a shot now!!!!

      August 19, 2011
  3. “Just fresh, high quality ingredients, with a slow and wise traditional cooking method … ”

    Eccola is right! That’s the secret to all fine Italian food.

    August 19, 2011
    • Thank you!! Coming from you, I take it as a great compliment!!

      August 19, 2011
  4. What a fantastic post filled with great tips and photos to make sure you can do it too. Thanks!

    August 19, 2011
    • That was the idea: sharing it so that anyone can do it!!!

      August 19, 2011
  5. That is a perfect pasta dish – no clever dick tricks, just superb ingredients and care. Top post.

    August 19, 2011
    • Thank you Roger!!! Indeed, no tricks just a lot of care into choosing the right ingredients and making the dish with high precision….and let me say it: “Southern Italian know how”

      August 19, 2011
  6. Great post – you lucky girl to have been able to poke round the kitchen. Love the photo galleries..will have to figure out how to do that!

    August 19, 2011
    • Muchas gracias Chica!!! I did it by copying and pasting pictures by using Microsoft WindowsPaint program …it is easier to portray your step by step shots since you get a whole picture of the cooking process!!

      August 19, 2011
  7. LILIANA KAFIE #

    Giselle,
    What colorful pictures …they make my mouth water!

    August 19, 2011
    • Thank you Lili!!! My mouth was also watering while doing these shots!!!

      August 19, 2011
  8. Oh, I am so jealous! But you have shared this with us beautifully! I feel like I was right there! I can’t wait to try this out, so simple yet I see the techniques involved to make it so, so good!

    August 19, 2011
    • Thank you!! The important thing is sharing this tips to you all!!! I love doing so!!! Great cooking techniques must be passed out!!!

      August 19, 2011
  9. What a wonderful post! Makes you feel like you are there.

    August 20, 2011
  10. Regrettably I messed up the photos (will have to try again) but I made a close variant of this last night and it turned out fantastic! Thanks again.

    August 20, 2011
    • Despite the confusion, I am flattered you tried it! Feel absolutely free to contact me by email should you have questions/or need clarifications regarding this recipe.

      August 20, 2011
  11. Oh you lucky lucky thing.. to get into the kitchen. I love those shots. And this delightful recipe! thank you for bringing that out from their kitchen to us.. c

    September 6, 2011
    • Thank you!! I am glad you enjoyed it! In fact I was really lucky but I wanted to share my luck with you all!

      September 6, 2011
  12. Robert #

    did you know this was the favorite pasta of «Luciano Pavorati» he even cook them at his suite when performing at operas…

    April 5, 2015
    • Wow! I did not know that! Awesome, thanks for your comment

      May 10, 2015

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  1. How cool is that (aka Panini Girl Rules)! | joshuafagans

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