Happy New Year to all of you!!
Now, rewind to December 24th, 2013 – Christmas Eve dinner, the so called “La cena della vigilia”.
I am still thinking about what I ate for dinner on that day. Why? Because on Xmas Eve Italians eat seafood ( and I go nuts for “i frutti di mare”). Not only they prepare delicious dishes, but they alternate their Holidays menus. Think about it: we are all stuffed and tired of eating meat based delicacies throughout our celebrations. Italians play it smart, they indulge on spaghetti alle vongole, or a great boiled sea bass, together with other frutti di mare scrumptious treats. However, on Christmas day – like most of us – they eat meat.
Even though it’s not tomato season yet in Italy, the other day I was craving for a tomato- based pasta. To be more precise, I was searching for the recipe of Spaghetti alla Puttanesca.
I don’t know about you, but when Spring arrives, I become lazy (well ..let’s put it this way…I am lazy but I become even lazier!). And yet, I am still that food snob (not foodie please!) who’s willing to travel all the way down
from Rome to Modena to get the real deal: Balsamic Vinegar of Modena Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena -TBVM-, the right name for this luscious, fascinating potion.
It took me years to make a decent Cacio e Pepe, one of Rome’s traditional pasta dishes (the others are Carbonara, Matriciana, and Gricia).
Since Cacio e Pepe has only three main ingredients -Pecorino Romano cheese, black pepper and pasta-, it might seem an easy recipe to make – but it isn’t.
Today I went to the market near home to buy seafood for an appetizer I had to bring for tonight’s Christmas Eve dinner (Vigilia di Natale). According to Italian tradition, you eat seafood on Christmas Eve and meat on Christmas day. Since there is a lot of demand for fish on the 24th of December, you need to order seafood in advance. So I went to the market’s fishmonger and to my surprise they couldn’t find my order so they had to redo it (cleaning and preparing seafood included!!). That meant I had to wait for more than half an hour with little Ambrosina, who was hungry and crying!! To me this was the icing on the cake, or in Italian Christmas tone – as the picture portrays it – confectioners’ sugar on Pandoro (that is my daughter’s Xmas cap!).
What brings you back to the eighties? Well, in my case – as far as music – this song from Wham!
What brings me back to the eighties in terms of food? Buttered pasta and tomato sauce on the side.
We all have childhood memories about eating, and we all can relate to a certain food during a specific period of our lives. When I was a child, I still remember pasta cooking in the boiling pot and, as soon as it was done (not necessarily al dente), we used to add butter to prevent spaghetti from sticking together. To eat spaghetti, a simple tomato sauce with dried oregano was served to pour over the pasta. I thought that was so Italian. However, little did I know that this was not the way Italians ate their spaghetti.
A view of the crystal clear water of Santa Sussana well
“If I am a river, you are the ocean
Got the radio on, got the wheels in motion
We were silenced by the night
But you and I we gonna rise again
Divided from the light
I wanna love the way we used to when”
Nope! This is not a post about love. However, I could not find a better way to star this post without citing the song Silenced by the night from my favorite band – Keane -. Not just because we always play their music while we are driving, but because we were also heading to a river with the stereo on (with Keane’s Strangeland of course!) and our wheels were in motion to Rivodutri, where you can find a marvelous restaurant specializing in fish river called La Trota (the Trout).
In my past post , “How to make Pesto like a Ligurian” , I shared the secrets of the ancient pesto recipe. Having unveiled the ingredients and the method to make pesto alla Genovese, I thought that you may also want to know how Ligurians eat their pesto – right? Well, they combine it by using different pasta shapes that go really well with pesto – trofie, trofiette and trenette. While ago I was going down the pasta aisle of my nearest supermarket, and I came across a box of pasta Barilla. What caught my attention was not only the shape of the pasta – trofie , but the recipe on the back of the box – Ligurian trofie with pesto, potatoes and green beans…Potatoes with pasta? Did I read well? A weird combination, isn’t it? What added value could potatoes give pasta? Since this is a traditional recipe of the Liguria region (and there might be a reason why Ligurians use potatoes), I then decided to give it a try and find out by myself.
I used to make pesto with my food processor. I just had to blend all ingredients and there you have – a quick and easy sauce. Little did I know that using a mortar and pestle would change the taste of this ancient recipe. Indeed, pesto dates back to the mid 800’s and – of course – Ligurian cooks did not have any electrical appliances back then.
“Bad news, the Camorra did not release the pasta recipe. Sorry Roger“, I said. There was no way we could get the camorristas to unveil this ancient dish. Therefore, I sent a pizzo (a form of paying the mafia) to Cosa Nostra in Sicily (Costa Nostra in Italian means “Our Thing”). Read more