Pasta alla carlofortina

The story


The story of "Pasta alla carlofortina" is the story of its birthplace, the little town of Carloforte, the only town of St. Peter's Island, a unique place for culture, language and... cooking!
St. Peter's Island (Isola di San Pietro), so called because a legend tells that the apostle repaired here during a tempest on his trip to Rome, belongs to the Sulcis archipelago, in the south-western corner of Sardinia, a gorgeous Italian island and region in the middle of Mediterranean sea. It was uninhabited until 1738, when a ligurian (Liguria is the Italian region of Genoa, the old Maritime Republic) community arrived here from Tabarka, a little island along the Tunisian coast that in the 16th century was colonized by the Lomellinians, powerful Lords of Pegli, a neighbourhood of Genoa. In that period Charles Emmanuel III, King of Sardinia, realized a repopulating politics in the region, so he willingly accepted the request of the people living in Tabarka, tired of the continuous problems with the Tunisian authorities and with the pirates, to establish in the little St. Peter's Island. They so founded a new town which, to honour the King, they called Carloforte (the Fort of Charles). To live they dedicated to coral fishing, their main activity when in Tabarka, but they begin also to develope the production of salt in new built salt mines, and above all the tuna fishing, that still today is a particularly prosperous activity for the population of the island. Giant red tuna, with their exquisite flesh, between May and June, get into the Mediterranean Sea from the Atlantic Ocean, through the Strait of Gibraltar and remain entangled in the "tonnara", a gigantic fishing net settled between the northern point of the island and a group of three huge gypsum rocks.
So Carloforte became prosperous, whit many vessels stopping by its port feeding up its commercial net. Nowadays the town have less than 6500 inhabitants, and is an extraordinary example of coexistence of three different cultures, languages and tastes of three different populations: Here people still speaks the tabarkin language, a sort of genoan dialect enriched with sardinian and north-african accents and terms, while in the kitchens we can find ligurian specialties (e.g. "farinata di ceci", "fugassa"...), but also the "cashcà", a couscous variation done with steamed semolina and vegetables.

The recipe


As the main character of the local production and gastronomy is tuna, cooked in many and many ways, both fresh (in the right season) and preserved (canned tuna in oil or brine), it couldn't be but one of the main actors in the "pasta alla carlofortina" scene too. This dish is a perfect tasty and flavoured mix, ideal for a summer dinner or lunch, where fresh tuna meats the creamy texture of pesto and the sweetness of ripe tomatoes.
Fresh tuna can be replaced by canned tuna, possibly an high quality one. The kind of pasta is not fixed and can vary in almost every shape, both long and short, but traditionally the most used shapes are "trofie" (short, thin, and twisted ligurian pasta) and especially the "cassulli", a meeting point between pasta and gnocchi, belonging to the sardinian tradition, often containing saffron in the dough and better known as "malloreddus" or "gnocchetti sardi".
Possibly to be paired with a generous glass of white "Vermentino" wine.
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Gnocchi

Origins


With the word “Gnocco” (from the Longobard “knohha” meaning knot; the better known and used “gnocchi” is just the plural form in Italian) we usually identify every kind of piece of dough cooked in boiling water or broth.
The first known record has been found in Italy, in the Ledro valley (near the Garda lake), where in the archaeological site of an ancient pile-dwelling village, some little balls made of a mix of water and a sort of cereal flour were found close to a rudimental stone mill.
The concept is so easy and someway instinctive that in many countries such a preparation found its place, even if nowadays it has become a traditional dish (in many various shape and mix of ingredients) in Italy and in most of the Middle and Eastern Europe.
In Italy already in the 16th century were a popular dish, typical of the tables of the poor classes, but anyway mentioned in many old recipe collections. In those times they were called “zanzarelli” and were mainly done of breadcrumbs, milk and dry fruits (usually crushed almonds).
In the 17th century they changed name into “malfatti” (somewhere are still locally called with this name) replacing breadcrumbs and almonds with the more usual flours, and milk with water.
Notice that when we say flour we mean every kind of flour was in use in the various regions, so could be of wheat, corn, rice, semolina, buckwheat, almond, chestnuts, and so on.
In the 18th century eventually potatoes came in, going to change (together with tomato) the European culinary habits together with the recipe of “gnocchi”. The circumstance of the rapid diffusion of potatoes in the old continent kitchens has a little anecdote to be told.

Batteries and potatoes


The first character of this anecdote is Antoine Parmentier a French pharmacist, that was captured during the Seven Years War (1756-1763) and interned in Germany where was fed exclusively with potatoes, in those times used only as animal feed. Once returned to France he exalted this food, making his voice arrive up to the court of Louis XVI.
Few years later, in 1801, Alexander Volta was in Paris as a guest, to present his invention of the battery to the Institute of France and to Napoleon. Being a comprehensive researcher and a good gastronome too, when back in Italy contributed considerably to the diffusion of the use of potatoes, above all debunking the myth of its toxicity.
From there to the replacement of part of the flour in the gnocchi making, the step was really short, thanks to a so much lighter result. In the end of the 19th century potato gnocchi had spread everywhere leaving to the previous versions only few local niches.

Old and new traditions


Today gnocchi are a very popular dish in all the Italian regions and in a wide part of Europe. It has been associated to many local traditions in many places.
In Rome a traditional quote says: “Giovedì gnocchi, Venerdì pesce e Sabato trippa” (literally “Thursday gnocchi, Friday fish, Saturday tripe”) giving an idea of how much our dish was popular. Another roman quote says: ”Ridi, ridi, che mamma ha fatto li gnocchi” (literally “Go on laughing, as mom made gnocchi”) showing how much our beloved dish was welcome.
But gnocchi has also become locally a sort of symbol, like in the case of Verona, the town of Romeo and Juliet. The incipit was the great famine of 1531. In that occasion the Town’s Council, led by Tommaso Da Vico, to avoid a popular insurrection, decided to donate to the poorest neighbours of the town a big quantity of bread, wine, butter, flour and cheese in the last Friday before Lent. Da Vico, in his testament, issued that this had to be done in that same day every year to come. So began the tradition of the “Venerdì gnocolar” (Friday of gnocchi) because all the food donations were represented by a dish of gnocchi. And the public figure of Da Vico, probably originated Verona’s Carnival character, “Papà del Gnoco” (Gnocco’s dad), whose sceptre is a great fork with a pierced gnocco.
But the popularity of gnocchi arrived, thanks to the Italian immigrates of the beginning of the 20th century, also to the other part of the Ocean, in all the Latin America, and particularly in Argentina where the 29th day of every month was traditionally called “Dia de Ñoquis” (the Gnocchi day). Usually the day 29 was the day before payday, and gnocchi was a perfect dish in that day, being extremely filling but not expensive.

Not only potatoes


As we already said gnocchi were long time before the coming of potatoes, and though the word “gnocchi” is generally associated to the potato ones, the kinds of gnocchi that survive still today are too many and made with every kind of flour and other ingredients. Here is a regional list only for Italy, probably not complete too. In other countries have more, from Austrian knödel to Lithuanian cepelinai). Just to have an idea of how gnocchi are a whole “universe” for cooking.
Piemonte e Valle D’Aosta: Gnocchi alla bava
Piemonte: Dunderet (Strangoiapreve), Ravioles della Valvaraita
Lombardia: Gnoc de la cua, Malfatti, Gnocchi alla lariana, Gnocchi de ‘pa, Pizzoccheri della Val Chiavenna, Capunsei, Gnocarei, Gnòc de schelt, Gnòc de rìh, Gnocchi di zucca
Trentino Alto Adige: Canederli (Knödel, Marillenknödel, Zwetschgenknödel), Spätzle, Knöpfle
Friuli Venezia Giulia: Gnocchetti de gries, Gnochi de pan, Gnocchi de susini
Veneto: Gnocchi con la pastissada, Gnochi con la fioreta
Emilia Romagna: Pisarei e faśö, Malfatti di Borgotaro
Toscana: Gnocchi gnudi, Gnocchi del cicolano, Matuffi
Marche: Gnocchi di Apecchio
Umbria: Gnocchetti alla collescipolana
Lazio: Gnocchi alla romana, Gnocchi de lu contadinu, Gnocchi ricci
Campania: Gnocchi alla sorrentina
Puglia: Triddhi, Pizzua
Sicilia: Ganeffe
Sardegna: Malloreddus
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Pasta alla Norma

Story

The roots of pasta alla Norma (“pasta ca’ Norma” in Sicilian dialect), one of the best known masterpieces of Italian cuisine, are closely tied to those of another great masterpiece of the Italian culture. We are obviously talking of “Norma”, opera in two acts by Vincenzo Bellini written in 1831, and first produced at “La Scala” theater in Milan on 26 december of the same year. This opera, after a not so happy debut, became a leading example of the “bel canto” genre, inspiring the best soprano voices like Maria Callas, Joan Sutherland and Montserrat Caballé. While a suggestive legend tells that also our pasta dish had its debut in the same day of the opera, just to honor its first public performance, a more reliable tale links the name of this dish to the musical masterpiece.
We are in Sicily, exactly in Catania, in an autumn evening of 1920: Nino Martoglio, Pippo Marchese and Peppino Fazio were invited for dinner by Angelo Musco, e Donna Saridda, who served this dish of spaghetti with tomato sauce, basil, fried eggplants and ricotta salata (salted ricotta cheese). After the first forkfuls, Nino Martoglio, famous sicilian comedy writer, exclaimed: “Signura, chista è ‘na vera Norma!” (literally: “Milady, this is a true Norma!”), meaning that it was a true example of perfection, and so giving the name to the recipe.
Reliable or not, anyway both the opera and the recipe are two milestones in their respective fields of the Sicilian and Italian culture.

The recipe


The original recipe, the documented one, born in Catania, is clear and simple: pasta, tomatoes, basil, ricotta salata and eggplants cut in slices (sometimes in stripes) and fried apart.
If you happen to go traveling around Sicily anyway will likely find a lot of variations, some little, other more significant. Already in Messina (a town north of Catania, far less than 100km) our dish is prepared with the eggplant diced and not sliced (but this makes just a little difference in the texture), and often topped with baked ricotta and not the salted one. This makes a great difference in the taste of the dish.
Some other variations are the addition of capers or anchovies to give a more intense taste, or the use of grill the eggplant instead of frying it, making it healthier, but less tasty.
Go out of Sicily and will find more and more little variations, but usually remaining in Italy the recipe hasn’t gone under many changes. Going out of Italy we arrived to find a menu of a restaurant in Philadelphia were pasta alla Norma included also shrimps and soy sauce, that testify just the need to use a best-seller name for something completely different.
The only thing that is never under discussion is the kind of pasta. Penne, tortiglioni, maccheroni, caserecce, fusilli, any kind of pasta is welcome while it’s a short one. But NEVER a long one like spaghetti, vermicelli or linguine.
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Spaghetti aglio, olio e peperoncino

Origins


Despite many regions claim their paternity, the “spaghetti aglio e olio e peperoncino” is almost universally considered a typical recipe of the neapolitan cuisine, more specifically of that heap of popular dishes of the so-called “cucina piccina partenopea” (literally “neapolitan little cuisine”). In this group of recipes it is maybe one of the oldest, and probably was born as a poor version of the already poor “vermicelli con le vongole fujute” (vermicelli with fled clams) where instead of the clams the cook used to put some sea stones in the pan to give the “clam” flavor.
As it’s one of the first documented popular pasta recipes, it gave the chance to many gastronomes to argue about the original kind of pasta that was used. While some of them, like Jeanne Caròla Francesconi in her “La cucina napoletana”, support the theory that the first kind of long shaped pasta was a sort of handmade linguine, many keep on associating this recipe with vermicelli, a pasta shape with a slightly wider section than spaghetti.
These academic disputes anyway are not so interesting, and usually nowadays the recipe is cooked with spaghetti, but the main argument for the vermicelli option gives us a chance to unveil a curious story.

The fork as we know it


The recognized and documented original name of the recipe was “vermicelli alla borbonica”, thanks to Ferdinand I, Bourbon King of the Two Sicilies (better known as Ferdinand IV of Neaples), who gave to this dish the dignity of a food suitable for the aristocracy. Spaghetti until his reign were eaten using the hands, and so their target was extremely popular.
Table fork was in use since the times of old Greeks and Romans, and with the decline and fall of the Roman Empire its use was limited to the oriental provinces. At that times forks were bigger than the today’s ones and had two (rarely three) sharp prongs.
In the middle ages fork was reintroduced in Europe by the Venetian Republic, but the Church stated it to be a “demoniac” tool, so it’s use was openly opposed, particularly in the courts of the aristocracy (the poor people had no money for such luxuries…).
Anyway, slowly, especially thanks to the presence of Catherine de Medici as Queen in France, the use of the fork took root even in the European courts.
But when the first attempts to eat spaghetti with those forks were made, the result was a catastrophe. So we arrive to the Bourbon king of Neaples, and to his chamberlain Gennaro Spadaccini, who redesigned the fork, bringing the prongs to four and making it smaller and more handy.
So, in the end, eating a good spaghetti dish was possible for kings and queens too.
Obviously, the preferred spaghetti dish of King Ferdinand was our beloved “spaghetti aglio e olio” that was so named in his honor.

The recipe today


Today, the addition of chilies to the original recipe is a regular use, so “spaghetti aglio e olio” has become our “spaghetti aglio, olio e peperoncino”. The ingredients are all in the name (if we exclude a usual spread of finely chopped parsley) and its simplicity and poverty of ingredients make it the classic last-minute dish all over Italy.
But, as often happens, simplicity is not equal to ease. Browning the garlic and chilies to the right point is not so easy as it can seem, and is often used in the Italian restaurants as a test for young chefs. And there are also other two or three tips about preparing this dish, but let them remain secrets of the chef.
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Pasta alla puttanesca

Origins


Among all the sauces used to season pasta, the "alla puttanesca", from the neapolitan tradition, is one of the best known. It has been the argument of poems (like that of Eduardo De Filippo), and mentioned in many movies. It's a simple and popular dish, prepared with very few ingredients and able to bring everybody together.
As often happens its origins are uncertain. We can find the first traces of a similar dish in the early nineteenth century in a book from Ippolito Cavalcanti, Duke of Buonvicino, cook and writer. In his compendium "La cucina teorico pratica" he mentions a recipe based on olive oil, olives and capers. The absence of tomato should not surprise, as its regular use in the kitchen is relatively recent despite it was introducted in Europe and Italy soon after the discovery of the Americas. Actually it was during the nineteenth century that Neapolitans discovered its deliciousness beginning to cultivate it in the plains between Neaples and Salerno where the "red" cultivars were born to be used in the experimentation of many recipes. So it's really probable that, from the Cavalcanti's recipe, new versions were born with the presence of tomato, up to arrive to the most plausible ancestor of "alla puttanesca" sauce, called "alla marinara" or, in neapolitan dialect, "aulive e chiapparielli" (meaning "olives and capers").

The legend of the name


The etymological roots of the name are cloaked under a shadow of legend. The word "puttanesca" comes directly from "puttana" that means "whore", "prostitute", so that the recipe is literally of a sauce "in the manner of a whore". For such a curious name, many more or less creative stories can be found to justify it. Here is a list of the most recurring.
- In the neapolitan slum called "Quartieri spagnoli" the owner of a brothel used to offer to his customers this pasta, calling it "alla puttanesca" because of its many colours recalling the colourful lingerie of his girls.
- Some authors mentions a prostitute of provencal origin, Ivette, working in Naples that used to prepare this dish for her customers.
- Edoardo Colucci, a painter living in Ischia island, had the habit to host many friends in his home to spend the night. One time he discovered that his kitchen pantry was almost empty, but his friends asked him to prepare anyway "una puttanata qualsiasi", a typical italian way to say "any kind of rubbish". The rubbish obviously was our beloved dish...
- A similar story is told with other characters, Sandro Petti (nephew of Edoardo Colucci) owner and chef of the restaurant "Rancio Fellone" in Ischia, and his customers.

The recipe


What's mandatory in the "puttanesca" sauce? Extra virgin olive oil, olives (better if Gaeta's kind) and capers (the "aulive e chiapparielli" of the origins). To these we can surely add tomatoes (as "passata" tomato sauce or cooked from fresh Pachino or cherry tomatoes), garlic and parsley. Optionals are onion, basil and oregano. Who likes a spicy sauce can add ground pepper or, better, dry chilies.
An important variation that has become really usual and appreciated (and comes from the roman tradition) is the addition of anchovies in oil, that give a stronger taste to the sauce.
Can be used almost any shape of pasta, but for the best result we should use a long one, like spaghetti or vermicelli. Anyway pasta have to be rigorously dry and of durum wheat.
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Pasta al pesto

Etymology


Nowadays when we say “pesto”, everywhere in the world, we actually refer to “pesto alla genovese”, that in the end it’s just “a” pesto. Yes, because the world “pesto” in Italian means “pounded in a mortar”, so that everything that is pounded in a mortar can rightly be called “pesto”.
And there are indeed many kinds of pesto all along the Italian territory, like pesto trapanese, siciliano, calabrese and so on. But when we say just “pesto” we can agree we are all talking of “pesto alla genovese”, in other words “pesto genoese or Genoa’s style”.

Story of pesto alla genovese


Pesto can claim origins that go up at least to the Roman empire. While some gastronomes trace its line back to “garum” (a pounded mix of fermented fish, probably derivated from a greek condiment, that survives in similar forms like “colatura di alici” in Italy, “nuoc nam” in Vietnam, “plara” in Thailand…) a more legitimate ancestor seems to be the “moretum”, a paste made of pounded cheese, garlic and herbs that was popular in the times of Roman empire as documented in the “Appendix Virgiliana”, a collection of short poems formerly attributed to Virgil himself.
Among the ancestors of pesto we can surely find the “agliata”, a mortar and pestle sauce based on garlic, used since the thirteenth century to preserve some foods. The presence of garlic in pesto is in fact surely a consequence of its properties as a natural preservative that made it popular especially among the seafaring towns, and Genoa in the late Middle Ages was a Maritime Republic, a seafaring town par excellence.

Basil and modern pesto


So far we can find the traces of some pesto-related food containing garlic and sometimes cheese and/or herbs. Genoa rivaled with Venice for many years, but the commerce of spices remained almost continuously in the hands of the venetian republic. So, in Genoa only the richest of the people could make use of spices for their food, while in the traditional food herbs where mainly used as a cheaper option. Among the other popular herbs, used for centuries, like parsley or marjoram, slowly found its place a herb coming from the Arabian and Indian countries: the "Ocimum basilicum", literally the royal herb: the basil. The unique flavor of pesto is mainly due to the presence of basil, and more exactly three cultivars of basil: genovese gigante, genovese nano and genovese comune.
With the widespread availability of basil, pesto recipe become rapidly fixed and codified.
In 1863 Giovanni Battista Ratto writes in his “La Cuciniera Genovese” the first known version of pesto, that found its definitive recipe in a revision from Emanuele Rossi in 1865. After that, pesto shortly became a staple in the Ligurian culinary tradition first, and then in the Italian one too.

Uses and variations


Pesto is mainly used to season pasta, usually “mandilli de sæa” (literally "silk handkerchiefs" from Genoese dialect), trofie, linguine or trenette. In the old tradition, potatoes and string beans were also added to the dish, boiled together with pasta, as they were cheaper than pasta itself. Moreover pesto is used in some versions of “minestrone” and also to season gnocchi.
Although the recipe of pesto is well codified, a couple of variations are in use and someway tolerated. The first is about the use of peanuts, cashewnuts, walnuts or almonds instead of pine nuts to solve the problem of their rarity and high price. The second is the balance of the cheeses in the sauce. Tradition says that should be around 25% Fiore sardo (a sheep cheese from Sardinia) and 75% of Parmigiano Reggiano (parmesan), but very often these proportions are changed to fit the taste of the consumers.
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Spaghetti alla carbonara

Story

In 1930, the Italian gastronome Ada Boni, in her famous book “La cucina romana”, a sort of bible of roman cuisine, never mentions the existence of such a typical dish, neither with its current name nor with another one. This is the only staple in the evolution history of this beloved dish.
Obviously there are many hypotheses about its creation, but as often happens, probably the truth is a mix of them.
There is a close ancestor coming from the Apennines mountains, where the woodsmen used to cook a pasta called spaghetti “cacio e ova” (literally “cheese and egg”) with the resources they brought with them when working far from home. It’s quite easy that this recipe can have met the presence of “guanciale” in those situations, giving birth to “carbonara”. A first point in favour of this hypothesis is that in the same region and in the same period another similar dish has born to become famous, spaghetti “alla gricia” (the ancestor of “spaghetti all’amatriciana”), that while not having the egg among its ingredients yet have guanciale. Another point is that very often those woodsmen were also coalmen, and that’s exactly the meaning of the Italian word “carbonaro”.
Another suggestive and realistic option is the meeting of “cacio e ova” with the American troops in the central Italy area during the World War II. Those soldiers had with them the K-ration containing bacon, and could have suggested its use as an addition to cacio e ova, in their craving of home breakfast taste.
Last hypothesis that’s worth to be considered is a possible napolitan origin, as in the Neaples area the use of egg and cheese condiment is used in many traditional dishes.
As you can see, while there’s not a trace of what is the actual path that leads to its creation, and all these hypotheses appear to be plausible, “carbonara” is here now, it’s a fundamental dish of traditional roman kitchen, and its recipe now is no more discussed, in spite of all the hundreds of variants present all over the world. Because, if it’s true that you can found it in the menus of restaurants in every corner of the globe, it’s just as true that there are errors in preparing it that are to be absolutely avoided.

Dos and don’ts

First of all “NO CREAM”. If it’s surely easier obtaining a creamy texture using cream (or milk, or similar…), it ends up with a taste completely different from the desired one. No onion, no parsley, absolutely no mushrooms or other vegetables (but a vegetarian version can be made using zucchini instead of guanciale, even if the result should not be considered the same dish…). Only oil, guanciale, egg yolk, pecorino (sheep) cheese and ground black pepper.
Variations that can be considered valid are: pancetta instead of guanciale, but absolutely not bacon or pancetta affumicata (smoked), and absolutely no ham. Whole eggs instead of only yolks, but it’s far better using only the yolk of at least the half of the necessary eggs. Parmigiano Reggiano (parmesan) or Grana Padano instead of pecorino cheese. This last variation makes a big difference in the final taste, but in many, many families the habit has become to put half and half. Anyway better pecorino than parmesan. Black pepper is to be considered an ingredient and not a seasoning, so pepper is mandatory and not chilies or nothing at all. It is possible, if not recommended, to simmer guanciale in dry white wine until reduced.
For the technique, is to be avoided the egg completely raw, but even the “omelette” effect, the coagulation due to an excess of heat. A good chef knows how to manage the pasta out of the fire and make it assume the right consistency and creaminess.
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Spaghetti all'amatriciana

Story

Spaghetti all'amatriciana is one of those recipes whose story goes beyond the official mentions in old culinary documentations and books. So, if it's true that the first mentions are of the early eighteenth century, the recipe is probably much older.
The only event that shakes the solid tradition of the dish is the addition of the tomatoes that, arrived from the "New world", found a wide use as a condiment only after the Napoleonic Campaign in Italy (1798-1814).
Yes, because before this dish was "white", and it is still possible to find it this way under the name of "Spaghetti alla gricia". "Grici" was the name used to identify the shepherds of the mountains close to Rome, of the region of Amatrice, a little town dramatically affected by the big earthquake of 2016, and "Spaghetti alla gricia" is a pasta dish made with just "guanciale" and "pecorino".
"Guanciale" is a cured meat product prepared from pork cheeks (cheek is "guancia" in Italian). "Pecorino" is a hard cheese made from sheep milk. The long shelf-life of these two products made them ideal for the shepherds to bring in the long periods they spent far from home in the mountains, where they used them to season their spaghetti.
These shepherds, during the winter were used to bring their herds down to the plains around Rome, taking the chance to go to the town to sell the products of their territory. And this is the reason why this dish has become an icon in the culinary scene of the town to such an extent that other stories are born to justify the assumption that Spaghetti all'amatriciana are born in Rome. What is surely true is that the recipe in Rome sometimes undergoes some little changes, causing the spreading of many variations.

The original recipe


As said before, the recipe has really few ingredients and in the end it's really simple, but owes its success to the quality of those ingredients. Guanciale is a fat cut of pork meat, particularly hard and tasty, and its flavour and texture are fundamental in the balance of the dish. Pecorino too, with its typical salty taste is necessary to obtain the right result.
Obviously, while guanciale can be done pratically everywhere with satisfying quality, pecorino from the zone of Amatrice is different from that one frome the Roman countryside that is different from many and many other cheeses produced with sheep milk.
So, really often it's possible only to get close to the desired taste, but never to the exact one.
Furthermore, in Rome the contaminations are sometimes bigger, allowing the use of onion and garlic in the sauce, of "pancetta" (a cold cut of pork meat similar to bacon) instead of guanciale, and of "Parmigiano Reggiano" (the only authentic parmesan...) instead of pecorino. Some of these changes are more tolerable, some other really bring to a dish with a comlpetely different flavour (like parmesan instead of pecorino). For example, in our restaurant we use homemade guanciale and pecorino Romano to be in the orthodoxy, but we add some garlic to the sauce to reach a taste more similar to the original one, because we don't use much garlic in the seasoning of our guanciale, anyway less than usual. Well, nobody is perfect. But we do our best to bring to you the authentic traditional taste of this masterpiece of Italian cuisine.
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Pizza

Story


The origin of pizza is lost in the mists of time. The first mention can be found in the opera of Vincenzo Corrado, napolitan philosopher, great chef and gastronome, who in the 1773 wrote about the habit of Naples' people to season pasta and pizza with a tomato based sauce.
But only in 1889, with the official visit of king Umberto I and his wife Margherita, pizza had its chance to enter in the Hall of Fame of italian kitchen. In that occasion, the best "pizzaiolo" (pizza chef) of Naples, Raffaele Esposito, was requested to cook some samples of pizza. He prepared three of them, one of which was seasoned with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and basil leaves (so representing the three colors of the Italian flag). The Queen was so impressed by this one that wanted to thank personally the chef with a letter. In return Esposito gave the name of the queen to his pizza, that since that day is worldwide known as "pizza Margherita".
The fame of pizza spread in the italian territory before, and then even beyond the national borders becoming soon a symbol of Italian kitchen in the world.
The diffusion of pizza in Italy, created a certain number of regional variation of the original napolitan recipe, and in particular two different kinds of pizza took hold, the original napolitan one (Pizza Verace Napoletana), and the Roman one (Pizza Romana), born in Rome after the Second World War to rapidly spread across the country.

What kind of pizza?


The differences between the two kinds is substantial.
The characteristics of Pizza Napoletana are:
- A very soft dough (water is 70% of flour and more).
- Has a border (called "cornicione") high and soft thanks to the air trapped in it during the dough handling.
- The regular "ball" of dough necessary for one pizza is around 250 grams.
- It's classic dough do not contain any kind of added fat (only water, flour, yeast and salt).
- It's baked in the oven at high temperatures (430-480°C) for a really short time (50-90 seconds) to avoid to dry the dough mantaining a soft texture.
The characteristics of Pizza Romana are:
- A very thin and crunchy base (sometimes it's called "scrocchiarella", a roman slang word meaning "crunchy").
- Has a low and extremely friable border (same level as the rest of the base)
- It's classic dough contains water, flour, yeast, salt and is often addictioned with some oil (olive oil or seed oil) to make the dough more crunchy after baking. Even the ratio water/flour is somehow lower for the same reason.
- The regular "ball" of dough necessary for one pizza is around 200 grams.
- To spread the ball of dough is often used a rolling pin ("mattarello"), because the dough is tough enough and it's difficult to widen it using only the hands (dough spread and twirled by acrobatic pizza chefs is of napolitan style or anyway more hydrated)
- It's baked in the oven at lower temperatures (350-400°C) for a longer time (3-4 minutes) to dry the dough reaching the right crispness.

Not only an assembly work


With regard to the seasoning, while a great variety of combinations can be found as every pizzaiolo is free to experiment, we can still identify a group of classic pizzas like Margherita, with normal mozzarella or buffalo one, Marinara, Napoli (with anchovies), Capricciosa, 4 stagioni, 4 formaggi, Diavola, ecc. Obviously these kinds too can vary from region to region and from pizzaiolo to pizzaiolo, but mantain a certain identity all over the italian territory.
Anyway, in no case pizza is served in the topping-choosing style, but the combinations of toppings are those in the menu. Motivated variations are someway tolerated, but personal combinations are not considered because the pizza chef is not a simple "assembler", but is a "chef" and guarantee for his own recipes.
Italian pizza has been copied and cheated all over the world, for this reason Pizza Napoletana has been registered in EU Traditional Specialities Guaranteed (TSG) list. Unfortunately outside Europe no law can be applied to protect the authenticity of the product. This brought to a lot of variations that sometimes have nothing to do with the original one but the name.
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