Spaghetti Alla Puttanesca – Sinfully Savory

PAUOA, Hawai‘i – Artfully crafted with simple ingredients, there is nothing unwholesome about this pasta dish, except perhaps for its name.

Spaghetti Alla Puttanesca roughly translates to “whore’s spaghetti.”  Some say it got its name because it was a cheap and easy meal prostitutes could prepare between customers.  Others say the name was derived from the word Puttanata, or garbage, because it can be made from items lying around the pantry.

Puttanesca

This recipe is among our most cherished treasures from a fond trip to Italy this spring.

We were given this handwritten recipe by Stefano Salvadori, the proprietor of Academia Del Buon Gusto (The School of Good Taste) in Panzano in Chianti.  It is among our most cherished treasures from a fond trip to Italy this spring.  The sweetness of the Marzano tomatoes are perfectly balanced by the briny anchovies, capers, and olives making for a sinfully savory dish!

When shopping for the ingredients, try to find Marzano tomatoes – they are sweeter and have fewer seeds than the typical canned tomatoes.  R. Field Wine Company sells them.  Also, get capers preserved in salt.  The first time we made the dish, we used some salt-preserved capers we had purchased at a farmer’s market in Greve in Chianti.  When cooked, they plumped to the size of blueberries!  On our next trip we’ll bring back more as the plump ones are hard to find here in Hawai‘i.

This dish will tantalize your taste buds fresh off the burner but is even better the next day.  Buon appetito!

Spaghetti Alla Puttanesca

2 cans of San Marzano tomatoes (broken up)
1 ounce of anchovy paste
1/2 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 T of olive oil
2 T of red wine vinegar
2 T of capers, rinsed
1 lb. of spaghetti
1/2  cup of Kalamata olives
Basil leaves, cut into ribbons

Sautee onions and garlic in olive oil until onions are golden.  Add anchovy paste and blend.  Add tomatoes, vinegar & capers.  Bring to a boil.  Add olives and simmer for 35-40 minutes.  Meanwhile, boil water, add pasta & cool ‘til al dente.  Serve sauce over pasta and garnish with basil.

Mom, dad, Nadine & David taste tuscan-made balsamic vinegar with Stefano Salvadori, the proprietor of Academia Del Buon Gusto in Greve in Chianti.

Mom, dad, Nadine & David taste tuscan-made balsamic vinegar with Stefano Salvadori, the proprietor of Academia Del Buon Gusto in Panzano in Chianti.

Lentil, Kale & Chorizo Soup – Feed Your Soul!

PAUOA, Hawai‘i – When it comes to cooking, David wears the chef’s hat and I wear an apron . . . mostly to make sure that I don’t spill any wine on my shirt as I hover over him in amazement.  Well, recently I put that apron to good use and helped him prepare one of our favorite rainy-day dishes – lentil, kale & chorizo soup.

We found the basic recipe for the soup online and David tweaked it a bit, adding the kale for color and nutrients.  The recipe calls for chorizo sausage – you can get some at Mercado De La Raza on South Beretania St. (best) or at Whole Foods.  Finally, you can prepare the soup on the stove but we used an electric pressure cooker, one of the best kitchen appliance investments we’ve ever made.  The Fagor 3-in-1 Electric Multi-Cooker not only serves as a pressure cooker, but a slow cooker and rice cooker as well!

Hearty, smoky, with just a hint of heat, this soup is one of our favorites, and it is even better the next day!

Hearty, smoky, with just a hint of heat, this soup is one of our favorites and it's even better the next day!

LENTIL, KALE & CHORIZO SOUP

1 bag of lentils
1 large onion, diced
1 bunch cilantro (leaves only)
3 carrots peeled & chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
5 large kale leaves, de-ribbed & chopped
2-3 links of chorizo sausage, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 cans of chicken broth (14 oz. each)
Salt & pepper to taste

Brown chorizo, onions & garlic.  Drain fat.  Add lentils, broth, vegetables, salt, pepper & most of the cilantro. We put all of the ingredients in the pressure cooker then sealed it without stirring them.  We find that the veggies remain more intact this way.  If you simmer yours on a stove, you’ll have to stir it occasionally.  Simmer 1 hour on the stove or 25 minutes in a pressure cooker.  Garnish with remaining cilantro before serving.  Bon appétit! – ‘Dine

Note:  This soup condenses when refrigerated overnight so add water before serving a second time.

The answer to our prayers & palates

ROME, Italy – After enjoying an audience with the pope which lasted nearly two hours (His Holiness shared his message of peace in Italian, English, German and French) we were famished & wanted a peaceful place to have a leisurely lunch. Il Ristorante Piacere Molise was the answer to our prayers. The family-run, restaurant serves simple, traditional dishes and was only three blocks from the Vatican.

The calamari arrosto (delicately grilled squid on a bed of arugula) was worth returning for.

The calamari arrosto (delicately grilled squid on a bed of arugula) was worth returning for...and we did return a week later with the rest of the family!

Franco, Angela & Mauro Ricci created a memorable dining experience.

Franco, Angela & Mauro Ricci created a memorable dining experience.

Chef/owner Franco Ricci, his beautiful wife Angela and their son Mauro created a memorable dining experience for us, mom & dad.  We arrived early in the lunch hour, rang a door bell at the entrance to the restaurant and were greeted by Mauro. He ushered us into the cozy dining room like we were family. Wine and bread were soon on the table. We took a while to select our dishes because everything looked so good – but Mauro never made us feel rushed.

Each dish we ordered tasted just as we hoped it would. The calamari arrosto (delicately grilled squid on a bed of arugula), the orecchiette pietrabbondante (chicory, sausage & truffle pasta), and the wilted arugula & beef salad with shaved parmigiana cheese were dishes worth returning for…and we did return a week later with the rest of the family.

Mauro’s traditional tiramisu, rumored to be the best in Roma, was perfection. On our second visit, we were treated to a strawberry version that was equally delectable! The family agreed that the dishes at Piacere Molise were among the most deliciously authentic in Roma, and worthy of lofty praise. Alora!

Il Ristorante Piacere Molise
Via Candia 60
www.piaceremolise.net

Franco, Angela & Mauro Ricci created a memorable dining experience.

The Eternal City’s most intimate wine-tasting experience

Vino Roma founder and certified sommelier Hande Leimer hosts wine tastings at her elegant flat along the Tiber River.

Vino Roma founder and certified sommelier Hande Leimer hosts wine tastings at her elegant flat along the Tiber River.

ROME, Italy – Quintessential Renaissance man Leonardo da Vinci once said: “The discovery of a good wine is increasingly better for mankind than the discovery of a new star.” Leo would’ve been welcome at our table at Vino Roma, the Eternal City’s most intimate wine-tasting experience.

Vino Roma founder and certified sommelier Hande Leimer hosts wine tastings at her elegant flat along the Tiber River. We joined her on the second night of our two-week trip, to get a feel and taste for Italy’s regional wines before traveling through Roma, Firenze, Chianti & Cinque Terre.

Vino Roma surpassed our expectations because not only did Hande teach us how to taste and appreciate Italian wines, but she gave expert advice on restaurants, food, culture and tradition. The best part for us was that we had the chance to experience all of this in the camaraderie of good people. Our communal table included an American couple now living in Rome and a couple from England and Denmark. None of us were wine experts. We just love to drink wine.

The best part of the wine tasting is that we had a chance to experience it in the camaraderie of good people.

The best part of the wine tasting is that we had a chance to experience it in the camaraderie of good people.

Hande described the region, winery, quality and grape varietal for each bottle. After a few twirls of the glass to unlock the aroma of the wine, sticking our noses deep into the glass and sipping and drinking the wine, we soon found ourselves excited and enthralled.

“Describe what you smell!” encouraged Hande. She made sure that each of us had a chance to speak about what our senses and palate absorb. Hande, without saying, was teaching us that wine tasting is a very personal experience – what we taste unlocks a different memory for each of us. It was easy to share our memories among this intimate group of new friends (as opposed to a throng of tourists at a wine bar or winery tasting room).

As we took turns describing our wine, Hande introduced us to the new concept of “umami,” something that in recent years has come to be referred to as the “fifth taste.” Up until now, it was believed that the human tongue can detect only four basic tastes: sweet, sour, salty and bitter. Words that describe the umami-ness of a wine or food include delicious, mouth-watering and savory. It has something to do with the amino acids that are present. After a few dozen sips, we were rating our wines in terms of umami-ness. The reds were definitely umami-er than the whites…

We love Hande! She is the umami-est wine expert we've ever met.

Hande taught us that wine tasting is a very personal experience. We love her! She is the umami-est wine expert we've ever met!

Vino Roma helped pave the way down some cobblestone streets on our travels through Italy. We felt confident selecting wines everywhere we went. Hande taught us that when savoring the food of a region it is best to pair it with wine made in the region. This proved to be good advice time and time again. Thanks to Hande, every time we sip an Italian wine, it will evoke memories of our umami experience in Roma…

VINO ROMA
Lungotevere dei Mellini 10
www.vinoroma.com

A taste of Roman hospitality

roma_03_30_09-0722

A spire of fresh artichokes outside Il Giardino Romano. Inside, they were prepared to perfection.

ROME, Italy – After a leisurely morning of fountain-spotting and shopping, the family was famished, so we decided to try Il Giardano Romano in Roma’s Jewish Ghetto, which specializes in Jewish Roman cuisine. Travel reviewers and foodies gave it high marks. As we approached the restaurant, we were greeted warmly at the door by our waiter George, who ushered us to the cozy dining room of wood-beamed ceilings and exposed brick walls.

We decided to start with some traditional Jewish-Roman appetizers, and since there were eight of us, they adjusted the order so we could have a bit of each. We were presented with an assortment of deep-fried goodies including their specialty – lightly seasoned, flattened, baby artichokes. The offering also included zucchini flowers with anchovies; stuffed, green olives; and balls of mozzarella cheese all with a crust of finely ground corn meal. We devoured them – the artichokes were especially tasty.

Il Giardino featured traditional pasta, meat & fish dishes. Our favorites included the filetto al pepe verde – the fork-tender beef was topped with a creamy, lemon-butter sauce and green peppercorns; the gnocchi al pesto with basil, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil and pecorino cheese; and the trippa alla romana – tripe slow-cooked with herbs and tomatoes (mom’s choice). She loved it so much, she looked for it at every other Roma restaurant we visited.

Service at the ristorante was friendly and attentive – George even helped mom down the stairs and out of the restaurant after our meal. Gotta love that Roman hospitality! Note: There are some really cool Roman ruins next to the restaurant to wander around in after your meal…

RISTORANTE IL GIARDINO ROMANO
Via del Portico d’Ottavia 18
www.ilgiardinoromano.it


A topless tour & Roma’s sweet spot

Snacks are a must when embarking on a two-hour bus tour. We picked up some tasty paninis & drinks near the Roma Termini before boarding.

Snacks are a must when embarking on a two-hour bus tour. We picked up some tasty paninis & drinks near the Roma Termini before boarding.


ROME, Italy – Our first full day in Roma began with the perfect pizzette and ended with the accidental discovery of the sweetest spot on earth.

Call it touristy, but the best way to get an overview of a city is to take an open-top bus tour. Before boarding ours near Roma’s main train station, the Termini, we stopped at nearby Re Artu snack shop to grab some quick eats for the morning-long ride.

Local business people were lined up along the shop’s counter tossing back espressos and pointing at the sandwiches and pastries in the display case. We chose a classic pizzette – slices of prosciutto and provolone cheese with lettuce on a thin, toasted rosemary ciabatta. It proved to be the perfect take-along treat on the topless bus tour which took us from Piazza Venezia to the Vaticano and everywhere in between.

After lunch and doing what Rick Steves calls the “Ceasar Shuffle” – a walking tour of the Coliseum, Arch of Constantine, Forum, Capitol Hill & the Victor Emmanuel Monument – we returned to the Termini and decided to do the bus tour one more time (a $25 bus pass is good for 24 hours). We stopped again at Re Artu and were greeted warmly by the store staff. This time we picked up a split of Proseco, some Campari mix and a big bottle of Peroni beer and enjoyed a sunset toast with romantic Roma as the backdrop.

gelati

San Crispino & Gelateria Frigiderium were among our favorite gelato joints in Roma.


IL GELATO DI SAN CRISPINO
Via Della Panetteria, 42
ilgelatodisancrispino.it

Later that evening while strolling past the Trevi Fountain, we stumbled upon the world-renown Il Gelato di San Crispino. A New York Times food critic wrote recently that those who don’t agree that San Crispino’s gelati is the best in Roma have never tasted it. She was absolutely right.

The shop is bright, white, immaculate.  No posters of Audrey Hepburn licking an ice cream cone from “Roman Holiday,” or Anita Ekberg frolicking in the Trevi Fountain from “La Dolce Vita.” No generic, plastic, ice cream cone sign like the dozens we had seen at lesser shops across the city.  Gelato was the star here, and rightfully so.

The gelato is stored in covered, steel drums to ensure that each scoop is equally divine.  We savored the store’s signature flavor, Gelato di San Crispino – vanilla crème with honey – and cioccolato – a rich, dark chocolate. They were absolutely life-altering!

Later in the week we made a pilgrimage to Gelateria Frigidarium near Piazza Navona (Via del Govorno Vecchio, 112 / frigidarium-gelateria.com) where we read that the gelati is not just a food, but an artistic expression. We tried the cioccolato and an inventive flavor called “Mozart,” a combination of almond and pistachio. Delizioso!