Thursday, September 01, 2011

Alfonso Caputo's Spaghetti alla Nerano and the 2009 Greco di Tufo From Contrada Marotta

This time Lugiano Pignataro takes the stage:

And here we come to a recipe that's a symbol of a season of love, of the balance between richness and ostentation, a manifest of the joy of life that came after the War and the hard work the reconstruction entailed.

Perhaps no other dish can better capture that atmosphere than this pasta with Zucchine alla Nerano, a dish from the days before the arrival of the hulking Russian yachts, when people went from Li Galli to Punta Campanella slowly, in fishing boats. Or in the classic wooden boats from Riva.

One of the few traditional dishes whose age is known: It emerged from Maria Grazia's kitchen above the pilings in Marina del Cantone in 1951. A simple peasant dish, with cheese from the Monti Lettari, zucchini grown under the summer sun, Mediterranean basil, and... a secret.

What? Every cook has one, but you can be certain of this: No eggs! Can it be? Yes, thanks to a strange mix of tradition and needs of the pantry that leads to Alfonso's saying, "Eggs? You've got to be kidding!" And with him saying that one can be certain the dish is made without, and those who resort to eggs to bind the sauce don't know how to cook.

A recipe like this could not fail to be adopted by the great Marina del Cantone kitchen, whose roots dig deep into the vegetable patch that plunges into the sea, and the fish caught fresh nightly.

And this brings us to Alfonso Caputo's recipe, as prepared at the Taverna del Capitano, which is easy to reproduce at home

To serve 4
  • 320 grams (a little more than 2/3 pound) spaghetti (I prefer vermicelli)
  • 80 g (2/5 cup) unsalted butter
  • 500 grams (a little more than a pound) zucchini
  • 3 tablespoons mixed cheeses (this is the secret you'll have to work out; the perfect mix is a sort of liquer d'expedition for the dish, and people keep their formulas to themselves. Pprovolone del Monaco and Mozzarella fiordilatte d'Agerola play a part in the formula)
  • Basil, salt and pepper
  • Olive oil

Each has his, but you can be certain of this: No eggs! Can it be? Yes, thanks to a strange mix of tradition and needs of the pantry that leads to "Eggs? You've got to be kidding!"

Thinly slice the zucchini crosswise, and sauté them in abundant olive (1/3 cup at least) oil until done; drain them well lest the dish come out oily.

Bring pasta water to a boil, salt it, and cook the pasta until it reaches the al dente stage.
Melt the butter in a saucepot and add the zucchini.

Add the pasta and the cheese mixture and mix gently until the pasta and sauce are uniformly mixed.

This recipe must be paired with a serious, well structured white that has some acidity to it.

The ideal would be Greco di Tufo, which isn't too complex on the nose, but works very well with demanding food pairings. In this case the Villa Rainano cru developed by Fortunato Sebastiano, the young winemaker of Contrada Marotta in Montefusco, from whom the wine also draws its name. 3000 bottles of a 2000 worthy of being framed, at a price of about 12 Euros. The Greco faces up to the dish, which only appears simple, but is in truth quite structured, thanks to the sweetness and richness of the abundant sauce. The wine sweeps the palate with a wave of freshness, setting the stage for another bite.

I eat to drink, and drink to eat. If I leave, who remains? And if I remain, who leaves?

Published Simultaneously by IGP, I Giovani Promettenti.

We Are:
Carlo Macchi
Kyle Phillips
Luciano Pignataro
Roberto Giuliani
Stefano Tesi


Anonymous said...

My favorite spaghetti recipe! I prepare ot since more than 5 years. The secret is in the simplicity! Galina

Food Handler Certification said...

I love spaghetti since I was a child. My mom always cooks me, my brothers and my sister whenever it's our birthday or other special occasions that needs celebrating. Thanks for sharing this recipe. Now I can cook for my mom.