Pasta Pane Vino

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Pasta Pane Vino is the name of a recently published book by Matt Goulding. I bought it immediately after hearing the author interviewed by Christopher Kimball on Milk Street Radio.

The book is subtitled – “deep travels through Italy’s food culture,” and he has written similar books on Spain and Japan. Matt Goulding is a James Beard award-winning author, and published this book with Anthony Bourdain. It came out a matter of days after the death of Anthony Bourdain, in fact.


The best part of the book to me was the correspondence Matt Goulding had with Anthony Bourdain – actual letters between the two discussing the prospect of yet another book on Italian food.

The book is more of a travelogue; it’s not a cookbook. In it you discover three brothers who became the burrata kings of Puglia. You discover the Barolo Boys who turned the hilly Piedmont into one of the world’s great wine regions. You meet some Italian nonne, some of whom are arguing about how to make ragu.

During the interview the author gave up some of his favorite, “secret” places to dine in Italy, so hopefully not everyone who buys this book turns these local spots into tourist stops!

Anyone planning a trip to Italy could certainly use this book for inspiration. It’s also good to know the “rules” of the culture, and this book contains some helpful information in the chapter “Drink Like an Italian.”

I’ve interspersed photos of my own from various regions of Italy. If you haven’t been, I strongly urge you to go.

GET WITH THE SCHEDULE
Italians are famously fastidious about when they drink what. Sunrise to 11 AM is cappuccino time, the early afternoon for espresso. Early evenings are for aperitifs – wine or beer, with snacks – and after dinner is time for the stronger stuff: grappa, a cocktail, or a digestivo.

LEARN THE LINGO
Order a “grande latte” and you’ll get a giant glass of milk and the skiing eye. Everything starts with espresso, more commonly called cafe. Order a roster to for a shorter, concentrated shot; a lunge for a longer, gentler one. A macchiato gets you a little steamed milk, and a cappuccino gets you a lot more.

KEEP IT QUICK
Coffee culture here isn’t one of slow sipping and lingering. Italians don’t drink venti mochas in to-go cups; they drink four to five caffes spaced throughout the day, like cigarettes, to scratch and itch and break up the demands of the day. Find a bar you love and keep going back to the counter.

MAKE A MEAL OUT OF IT
Italians rarely drink on an empty stomach and a glass of wine or a spritz is usually a bridge to a free bite. In Venice, feast on small snacks called cicchetti; in Milan and Bologna lavish spreads put out for aperitivo can easily double as dinner. If you’re not getting something to eat with your glass, you should find a new place to drink.

DRINK LOCAL
Just as you don’t eat pesto in Palermo or carbonara in Campania, you shouldn’t drink Barolo in Bari or Chianti in Cagliari. Stick to the local grapes and you’ll find better deals and more interesting wines. Zibibbo (Sicily), Soave (Veneto), pignoletto (Emilia-Romagna): all rank as some of Italy’s most underrated.


Even if you’ve already visited Italy, this book is truly inspiring, entertaining, and educational. It will cause you to begin planning your next trip!

Trottole Trapanese

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This is a pasta post, based on my discovering the cutest twirly pasta ever, called Trottole. I purchased the spinach variety, for color.

As is my pattern, apparently, I purchase a unique pasta, then figure out what sauce to put on it. For the trottole, I decided to again make a Sicilian pasta sauce I wrote about five years ago. It got some attention, but not enough.

This sauce is so crazy wonderful and different than anything I’ve ever come across on other food blogs, that you folks need to discover it, too. So here it is again.

The sauce, called Pesto Trapenese, is an uncooked, Tunisian-influenced tomato sauce, that originated in Trapani, Sicily. The sauce is ready before the pasta has finished cooking. I discovered it in Nigella Lawson’s cookbook called Nigellissima.

Ms. Lawson uses fusilli lunghi when she makes Pesto Trapanese, otherwise called telephone cords, but I think these trottole will be a perfect substitute.

Trottole with Pesto Trapanese
Or, Sicilian Pasta with Tomatoes, Almonds, and Garlic

1 pound fusilli lunghi (or other pasta of your choice)
salt for pasta water (to taste)
9 ounces cherry tomatoes
6 anchovy fillets
1 ounce golden sultanas
2 cloves garlic (peeled)
2 tablespoons capers (drained)
2 ounces blanched almonds
2 ounces extra virgin olive oil
Parmesan
1 small bunch fresh basil (approx. 20g / 1 cup, to serve)
Cayenne pepper flakes

Put abundant water on to boil for the pasta, waiting for it to come to the boil before salting it. Add the pasta and cook according to packet instructions, though start checking it a good 2 minutes before it’s meant to be ready.

While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce by putting all of the 7 ingredients through the olive oil into a processor and blitzing until you have a nubbly-textured sauce.

Tip the drained pasta into your warmed serving bowl. Pour and scrape the sauce on top, tossing to coat (add a little more pasta-cooking water if you need it).


Serve immediately and strew with basil leaves.

Grated Parmesan and cayenne pepper flakes are optional.

I’m so in love with the trottole. And they hold their shape beautifully.

And you can bet I’ll keep making pesto Trapanese. At first you taste the bite from the garlic, then the saltiness from the anchovies, then the tang from the capers, and then some raisin sweetness, and finally, the texture from the almonds. The tomatoes are hardly noticeable, yet provide a good base for the goodies.

Try this sauce!!!

 

 

Sicilian Inspired Wahoo

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As you might know from my wahoo fish salad post, I received the gift of a large chunk of wahoo from friends a while back. And today I’m going to prepare the other half of the wahoo in a completely different style. (Thanks again, Jim and Gab!)

I have a couple of cookbooks on Sicilian cuisine, which I find very fascinating. You’d think I’d have visited Sicily by now, especially since I’m half French and half Sicilian. But I haven’t. It is on my travel bucket list, however.

I’m not using a specific Sicilian recipe today, but one that I’ve created in my mind after glancing through pages of these cookbooks. Call it Sicilian-inspired.

The wahoo steaks will get cooked very simply, then I will serve them with an olive-based four-ingredient topping – simple ingredients yet strong flavors that will enhance the wahoo. Quick and easy.

Sicilian Inspired Wahoo

2 steaks wahoo, about 1″ thick, dried on paper towels
Olive oil
salt and pepper

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20 small pimiento-stuffed olives
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Juice of one small lemon
1 small garlic clove, minced

First, place a cast iron skillet over high heat. Add some olive oil to the pan. When the oil is hot, and the wahoo steaks. Season them with salt and pepper.

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After about one minute, turn them over. Season them on the other side.

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After another minute, turn off the stove but keep the steaks in the skillet. This gives the wahoo a chance to cook in the middle, without any further browning.

Meanwhile, chop up the olives and place them in a small bowl along with the chopped parsley, the lemon juice, and the minced garlic. Stir well.

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After about ten minutes after the stove was turned off, remove the steaks from the skillet and place them on two plates. Top each of them with half of the olive mixture.

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I served my wahoo with a simple tomato salad with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

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You can use any method you prefer to cook the wahoo. It’s just important not to overcook it. See how tender it is?

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verdict: I’m extremely happy with this dish. The olive topping really goes well with the fish. I think I’d make this again!

Nigella and Pasta

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Nigella Lawson is my favorite TV chef. Not just because she is pretty and has a cool accent, but because she’s hysterically funny and loves eating and sharing food.

When I think of Nigella, I immediately think of cake, because it’s obvious she loves cake if you’ve read any of her cookbooks. But after cake, I think pasta. This is a woman who doesn’t worry about carbs or maintaining a gluten-free diet. She eats pasta with gusto.

So I found a unique pasta on her website, Nigella.com, to celebrate pasta and Ms. Nigella Lawson. It was a pasta I’ve never come across before.

This pasta recipe, called Pesto Trapanese, originates from the Italian city of Trapani, on Sicily’s westernmost tip. Geographically, Trapani is closer to the country of Tunisia so its local food has been defined by both Italian and Tunisian ingredients.

As a result, this pesto bears no resemblance to the popular basil pesto with which we’re familiar from Liguria. Instead, it is a savory-sweet combination of tomatoes, raisins, and almonds with the addition of anchovies and capers. Intrigued? I was!

Sicilian Pasta with Tomatoes, Garlic and Almonds

1 pound pasta of your choice, I chose pappardelle
9 ounces cherry tomatoes*
6 anchovy fillets
1 ounce golden sultanas
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons capers, well drained
2 ounces blanched almonds
2 ounces olive oil
Cayenne pepper flakes to taste
Grated Parmesan
Chiffonade of basil leaves, optional

Pappardelle are a beautiful pasta.

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Cook your pasta according to package directions in salted water.

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Meanwhile, place the tomatoes, anchovies, sultanas, garlic, capers and almonds in the jar of your food processor. Add the 2 ounces of oil and process until smooth.

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Ms. Lawson also recommends using about 2 tablespoons of the pasta cooking water in the pesto sauce.

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Without pasta water, mine looked like this, so I didn’t add any water.

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Drain the pasta, then put in a large serving bowl. Immediately add the tomato mixture and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning. I added cayenne pepper flakes. Serve with some grated Parmesan and a few basil leaves, if desired.

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verdict: At first bite, I wasn’t really sure what I thought. Then, it was immediately addicting. You first taste the anchovies, capers, and garlic, then you feel the texture from the almonds, and then there’s the occasional sweetness from the raisins. What an unbelievable pasta sauce. I can see why Nigella eats it cold…

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From Nigella:

“I have come across more than one version of “pesto Trapanese”, the Sicilian pasta sauce from Trapani that differs from the more popularly known Genoese variety in a number of ways. Chief of these is that almonds, not pine nuts, are ground into the mix – a divergence whose origins (in common with a lot of Sicilian food) owe much to Arabic cooking.

I like to use fusilli lunghi, which are like long golden ringlets (or, less poetically, telephone cords) but, if you can’t find them, simply substitute regulation-size fusilli (or indeed any pasta of your choice).

Since the sauce is unheated, it would be wise to warm the serving bowl first but, having said that, I absolutely adore eating this Sicilian pasta cold, should any be left over. It is so easy to make and, being both simple and spectacular, is first on my list for a pasta dish to serve when you have people round.”