Mario Batali is a culinary legend, a bundle of energy who has had enormous impact on America’s culinary landscape. His capacity for activity seems boundless: television including Iron Chef, restaurants spanning the continent, personal appearances, cooking contests, and, of course, cookbooks. But not just any cookbooks, for Batali is an enthusiastic advocate for finding and recording authentic recipes. Batali has become a food historian, preserving the culinary past for all generations.
In Molto Italiano, Batali records local recipes, the city-specific ones that make Italian cuisine so richly varied. Travel twenty miles in Italy from one town to another, and you’ll encounter an entirely new set of dishes. You really cannot compare, you can only enjoy.
This particular recipe is from Brindisi, an historic port city in Southern Italy. You’ve probably heard of Brindisi, but you won’t recall where. At the end of this blog, I’ll tell you.
On our first visit to Italy, Suzen and I actually went to Southern Italy and ate in one of the portside restaurants of Brindisi. I ate fresh anchovies at that little place, so when we saw this recipe which uses anchovies and almonds we were intrigued. That’s an unusual pairing of flavors. Knowing Mario, we expected something awesome. We were delighted with the results. So will you be.
Oh, I almost forgot about Brindisi. Remember the movie, and now television series, Spartacus? Kirk Douglas as the Roman gladiator who kills his trainer and leads a slave rebellion against Rome? His goal was to lead the slaves to freedom by crossing Italy, boarding ships and fleeing back to Greece. The port was Brindisi. Something to contemplate as you eat your anchovies.
St. John’s Eve Pasta
Yield: 4-6 servings
¾ cup sliced blanched almonds
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cups fresh bread crumbs
4 salt-packed anchovies, filleted, rinsed, and chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 ½ cups tomato sauce
6-8 fresh basil leaves, chiffonade
1 pound lasagnette or pappardele pasta
Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot, and add 2 tablespoons of salt.
Meanwhile, in a 10-inch sauté pan, gently toast the almonds in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat until golden brown.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the almonds to a plate. In the oil remaining in the pan, toast the bread crumbs, stirring, until golden brown and crisp. Combine the bread crumbs and almonds in a small bowl.
Add 2 tablespoons more olive to the pan and reduce the heat to medium-low. Stir in the anchovies and crush them into the oil with a fork. Add the anchovies and oil to the bread crumb mixture and season with lots of black pepper. Set aside.
Add the remaining 5 tablespoons olive oil to the pan, add the onion and garlic, and coo gently until softened but not browned. Add the tomato sauce, being to a brisk simmer, and cook until the sauce has reduced by one-third. Add the basil, remove from the heat, and set aside.
Drop the pasta into the boiling water and cook until just al dente. Drain the past well, and toss into the pan with the sauce. Add half of the bread crumb mixture and toss to mix well.
Transfer the pasta to a warmed serving blow. Sprinkle the remaining bread crumb mixture over the top, and serve immediately.
Source: Molto Italiano by Mario Batali
This is my favorite Sunday pasta dish. Dried pasta is such a convenient and versatile food, there are many ways to serve it. This idea comes from the many great Italian meals I have enjoyed in New York. Grana Padano is an Italian cow’s milk cheese from the northern region of Emilia-Romagna. I like its mellow flavor and the slight creaminess it adds to this pasta. You can substitute Parmigiano-Reggiano, if you prefer.
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for finishing
- 1 pound hot Italian sausage, casings removed
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 4 medium-ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into large dice
- Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 12 ounces dried rigatoni
- 1 bunch arugula, tough stems removed and coarsely chopped (1½ cups)
- ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
- ¾ cup freshly grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese