Friday, August 30, 2019

Scialatielli Pasta with Steamed Mussels - Pasta is a Girl's Best Friend!

Those of you who follow my blog know that I love to go out to eat at some of Campania's top restaurants.  Those who follow me on social media, however, know that I love to cook as well.  Can't eat out always!
Summer is one of my favorite times to cook because, let's be honest, I have more time.  More time to prepare an Italian staple - pasta.  I remember when I first moved to Italy over 25 years ago, I was surprised at how many different pasta formats there were and how many different ways it can be prepared. And because of that, pasta has basically become my best friend...
Recently friend and pasta maker Giovanni Assante  of Gerardo di Nola sent me a surprise package.  The postman did ring twice! A package full of pasta and tomatoes to last me quite awhile and maybe spark some creativity in my kitchen as summer starts to wind down.

One of the packages that caught my attention was his scialatielli al nero di seppia.  Scialiatelli is a thick pasta which looks a little like fettucine, just shorter.  This version includes black squid ink included during the pasta making proscess.
To stick with a seafood theme, I decided to prepare something simple but flavorful.  Steamed mussels!

After steaming the clean clams with a little garlic, chili peppers and just a small bit of extra virgin olive oil, I seperated the mussels from their shells, making sure to keep the water left behind which would basically be the pasta sauce.
In another pot,  I cooked the pasta for abour 7 or 8 minutes in lightly salted boiling water.  I then added the pasta to the steamed mussel water and stirred/tossed etc etc until the pasta was how we wanted it.  Al dente, of course - cooking time depends on many factors but I took about another 7  minutes or so.  Every now and then I added the water that I cooked the pasta in - make sure you don't throw that out!  It is full of starch that helps the pasta bond with the flavors from the mussels.  Oh, yeah, I added the cooked mussels right at the end with a bit of Italian parsley.

Buon pranzo!

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Spaghetti Summer - Chef Carlo Spina, 3 Piani, Naples (Na)

I chose the dining room on the 2nd floor of 3 Piani restaurant.  Piani means floors or stories and the restaurant has, well, 3. :-) I chose the 2nd floor for its air conditioning - ( the 3rd floor is a spectacular terrace overlooking the city, but it was just way too hot that evening)

So sure, I admit that I preferred the a/c,  but that didn't stop me when Chef Carlo Spina invited me into the kitchen to observe him as he was in the final stages of preparing me his spaghetti dish. 

Chef Carlo Spina

The chef uses spaghetti from Monograno Felicetti for this particular dish and as I joined him at the pass, it was nearly ready.

He gently swirls the pasta in a ladle and places it down on a bed of shrimp tartare.

A touch of plankton powder and sea urchin...

And lemon zest...

Then back to my seat in the dining room to enjoy my spaghetti summer - fantasticaaa!

Monday, August 26, 2019

Amazing Appetizer, Chef Valentino Buonincontri, Bertie's Bistrot, Nola (Na)

What happens when a young Italian chef gets inspiration from an American fast food favorite?  Maybe it was during  one of those early morning visits to the local fishmarket that Chef Valentino Buonincontri got his idea for what would soon become his amazing appetizer.  His octopus hot dog.

Bertie's Bistrot in Nola, a small town about 30 km from Naples was where I sat down to have lunch one afternoon.  There were many dishes that the chef had in mind for me to try and I was more than a willing participant. As long as one of those dishes included his...well, you dog.

After his aperitivo, which you can check out here, Bounincontri called me to the kitchen when it was time to plate up.  

Chef Valentino Buonincontri

For his hot dog - the chef uses octopus tentacles that have been sauteed in Sprite

Then wrapped in a bun.  Lime mayonnaise and octopus ketchup complete the dish.


Malazè Celebrates the Excellence of Campi Flegrei, September 14 - 24 2019

Only a few weeks to go until the XIV edition of Malazè, the event that showcases the excellence of the Phlegraean area. Dozens of appointments scheduled in the busy schedule from September 14th to 24th. Three hubs will characterize this edition: Rione Terra in Pozzuoli (Saturday 14 September), Lake Averno and Monte Nuovo (Sunday 15) and the  Astroni Crater (Saturday 21). In addition to the initiatives concentrated in the hubs,  on Sunday 22nd check out  “Fringe” with initiatives throughout the territory. For the entire duration of Malazè "Taste"  activities  are planned from Pozzuoli to Monte di Procida.

Activities such as  walks, bike tours, guided tours, dramatized visits, diving, tastings and meetings.

Wednesday the 18th, one of the most significant events of the event with  "Galeotta Night: taste evasions": evening in the Female Circumarial House of Pozzuoli with  chefs and pizza makers who will offer a special dinner for the inmates of the structure. Chef  Marianna Vitale will participate in the evening (Michelin star  Sud Ristorante in Quarto), Chef Angelo Carannante, (Michelin star  restaurant "Caracol"  in  Bacoli), Pizza maker Franco Pepe of" Pepe in Grani ", Pizza maker Diego Vitagliano of 10 Diego Vitagliano pizzeria ,   Francesco D'Alena of "Officina Bufala" , The cooperative Lazzarelle, Women of Campania Wine, Italian Sommelier Association -  Naples Delegation, the Apericar of La Bottega dei Semplicci Pensieri, Perrella Distribuzione,  and the l’I.s.i.s. “Vittorio Veneto”  of Scampia. Initiative organized in collaboration with  Dr. Carlotta Giaquinto.

 Malazè's complete program can be found on their website

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Spaghetti Summer - Chef Alfonso Caputo, Taverna del Capitano, Marina del Cantone (Na)

Nearly two summer seasons had past since my last visit to Taverna del Capitano.  Or was it three.  Anyway, as I drove the last few minutes or so downhill towards Piazza delle Sirene nestled on the marina, I couldn't help but wonder what Chef Alfonso Caputo would have in store for me that day.  

Chef Alfonso Caputo

Taverna del Capitano sits right on Marina del Cantone's small stony beach.  From the dining room's large windows you can hear the sounds of the crystal clear water blending in with the small talk of the sunbathers below.  You can also see the small dock where the chef often goes fishing during the off season as well as where the fishermen bring in their catch of the day.  

And that is why a visit to this Michelin starred restaurant is so exciting.  It's a an opportunity to not only try some of Caputo's classics, but a chance to see what has inspired him at the moment.   Beginning with an amazing appetizer - his capellini pasta with a tomato and redfish sauce,

Capellini is a pasta format very similar to spaghetti, just very very thin.  The pasta arrived cold in a small pot, while the sauce showed up in a separate colorful ceramic bowl.  

Instructions?  Add the pasta to the sauce, stir it up, and enjoy!

Another enticing summer spaghetti dish was Caputo's new entry for the 2019 season.

The spaghetti was cooked along with black cabbage and octopus.  Then a light addition of sea urchin and lemon is poured on top.

The acidity from the lemon lightly changes the color of the pasta without disturbing the delicate sea flavors.

Two pasta dishes that celebrate the sea.  And if you listen closely enough  you can hear the sounds of the crystal clear water blending in with the small talk of the sunbathers below. 

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Pizzeria I Masanielli - Sasà Martucci, Caserta (Ce)

So it went down like this - after trying two, well three slices of his pizza in Ravello (see here) I decided.  I decided that I would make that 30/40 minute drive out to Caserta and try hipizza made in his wood burning oven in his pizzeria.  I'm talking about a decision to have lunch with Salvatore Martucci - better known as Sasà Martucci.  The pizzeria?  I Masanielli  - Sasà Martucci.

Pizza maker Sasà Martucci
A little over two years had past since my last visit.  You've got a lot of catching up to do - Martucci joked with his signature smile.  So we looked over the menu and narrowed my pizza lunch to just 4 pizzas.  Not an easy task!

First up was a pizza that Martucci named after himself - the Sasà Martucci.  

A white pizza with tuna foam, crispy Giarratana onions, baked black olives, fior di latte, Kione extra virgin olive oil (Slow Food Presidio) and edible flowers showered on top. A pizza that represents a little of his personality. (He promised to tell me why in the future)

The next pizza was Martucci's take on a classic Campania pasta dish.  The Nerano.  Why the name?  Because Spaghetti alla Nerano was born in the seaside town of Nerano and features zucchini and cheese - just like this pizza.

Martucci uses a Parmigiana Reggiano fondue on the base  then tops it with fior di latte, a combination of green and yellow zucchini, crispy zucchini flowers, yellow zucchini chantilly, Provolone del Monaco cheese, pepper, and extra virgin olive oil.

Pizza number three - 8 Morsi - created with Mirco Scognamiglio, the chef of 12 Morsi. 

The pizza is baked with velvety yellow zucchini squash and fior di latte.  When the pizza comes out of the oven, Martucci adds Friesian beef shoulder, Parmigiana Reggiano foundue, balsamic vinegar and Koine extra virgin olive oil.

I had room (and time) for one more.  Pizza number 4.  Pizza Rosa, Pink Pizza. 

This pizza is actually a focaccia.  The primary difference between a focaccia and a pizza is that a focaccia's dough is higher than a pizza since it uses more leavening.  After the focaccia is baked, Martucci adds salmon that has been marinated in lemon, stracciatella di bufala cheese, pink pepper, fresh mint and extra virgin olive oil.

Lunch over,  Martucci sat down for a quick chat and a cup of coffee.  In just a few days he would be closing down for a few weeks for a well deserved vacation.  Then he would be back to work.  Back behind the pizza counter.  Back with new ideas for new pizzas.  
Ti aspetto! he said.  I'll be waiting for you!

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Spaghetti Summer - Chef Mimmo Di Raffaele, Belvedere Restaurant, Belmond Hotel Caruso, Ravello (Sa)

Ravello is a small peaceful medieval town which is a popular stop for international tourists during the summer.  It's pedestrian friendly with narrow cobblestone streets, small clothing boutiques, ceramic shops, restaurants and bars.  From Piazza Duomo - the main square - it is just a 7 or 8 minute stroll down one of those cobblestone streets to Piazza San Giovanni del Toro which houses the exclusive Belmond Hotel Caruso.

It was there that I decided to have lunch - at the Belvedere Restaurant.   The hotel's Executive Chef  Mimmo Di Raffaele shared with me the philosophy of his menu.  His guests, primarily tourists from all over the world, are looking for tradition.  A majority crave authentic regional dishes with products that can only be found here - in Campania.  So that is one of the key reasons that his lunch menu has choices that include mozzarella di bufala, anchovies from nearby Cetara, pizza cooked in a wood burning oven, and of course pasta.  Pasta dishes like his Spaghettoni 'Ravello' Vicidomini.  His  spaghetti with tomato sauce.

Chef Mimmo Di Raffaele

Di Raffaele's spaghetti dish is like a souvenir of the area.  A dish that shares with the diner a delicious portion of Campania in every bite.  For this dish the chef uses spaghettoni produced by Pastificio Vicidomini - an artisan pasta factory that has been around since 1812 located in Castel San Giorgio.

And the tomatoes?  Campania is lucky enough to have a wide range of varieties to choose from.  Di Raffaele uses  a rich combination from the local area such as  Corbari and Corbarello from Sapori di Corbara, mini San Marzano tomatoes, and pomodorini/small tomatoes from the Lattari Mountains which overlook the Amalfi Coast.  

A sprig or two of basil and the dish is complete.  Oh, and I couldn't resist to choose a piece of pane cafone - typical Neapolitan bread - from the bread basket to perform the traditional scarpetta, that final sweep where bread meets sauce to help clean the plate.

The perfect momento of my visit to Ravello.