Campania is the source of so many of the things that make Italian food, to the casual observer at least, Italian. Dried pasta – spaghetti, rigatoni, linguine and the like – reach their peak here, in the many pastifici that dot the landscape, particularly around Gragnano on the Amalfi coast. So too does buffalo mozzarella, hand pulled curds of cheese lovingly crafted from the milk of buffaloes raised along the Costiera Cilentana. And this is the land of tomato – San Marzano from Salerno for tins and passata or Cuore di Vesuvio, sun baked on the lower slopes of Mount Vesuvius, for slicing and eating raw. It is all food that tastes of the place it is from – a unique expression of a beautiful part of Italy. Here we feast on that mozzarella, and those tomatoes, and the finest spaghetti money can buy, from Gentile in Gragnano. Buon Appetito!
buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes & basil
Spaghetti alle vongole
Escarole salad and lemon dressing
Rum baba, strawberries & cream
For your meal you will need:
A large pot for boiling the pasta
A frying pan or wide saucepan with a lid for the clams
A small saucepan for the baba
The detailed recipes for the dishes are here, but in essence:
- Remove the mozzarella and tomatoes from the fridge at least one hour before eating
- Make the sugar syrup for the baba, and soak them
- Bring a large pan of water to the boil for the pasta
- Plate and eat the mozzarella and tomatoes
- Cook the pasta and the clams, and mix the two
- Dress the salad, then eat with the pasta
- Pipe the baba full of cream and smother with strawberries
- Scoff it!
ALLERGENS: all packs are prepared in a mixed kitchen, we cannot guarantee the absence of ANY allergen. All packs of this dish contain dairy, gluten, alliums, eggs, celery, and nuts.
Buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes & basil
One of Campania’s two big food gifts to the world – and the main topping for its other one – a good mozzarella is heavenly. My preference is always for larger balls – the flavour may be the same as smaller ones, but texturally they are a world apart. The freshest mozzarella should squeak between the teeth and be rich but with enough acidity to cut its own fat, here complemented by rich and fragrant summer tomatoes.
Your pack serves two and contains:
- 1 x 250g buffalo mozzarella
- Sun drenched tomatoes
- Spectacular olive oil
- Allow both the mozzarella and tomatoes to come to room temperature
- Place them both on a plate, or a board, and add the basil
- Serve with a small bowl of coarse salt, and the olive oil, and a sharp knife, so that each person may season their own food as they eat
- A wedge of bread is a tremendous addition here, to wipe up the milky, oily and transcendental juices that have leaked from tomatoes and mozzarella
Spaghetti with clams
Spaghetti alle vongole! What heaven. If ever there was a dish so worthy of the smiles even its mention brings, this is it. When in Italy, I go to the fish markets of Gaeta, just up the coast from Sperlonga, for the finest clams; in London, they are brought to me straight from Italy – and I in turn send them straight to you.
My trick is (a) lots of oil – half in the cooking and half at the end (b) clams, garlic and oil go in to a hot dry pan all at the same time and (c) no wine. Oh, and (d): really, really good clams and really, really good spaghetti.
Your pack serves 2 and contains:
- Gentile Spaghetti; the finest dried pasta I have tasted
- Clams, with some sliced garlic & a few chilli flakes
- Some parsley, chopped
- Plenty of fantastic olive oil
- Have ready a big pot of boiling, well-salted (10g/litre) water
- Put the spaghetti on to boil – they take 8 minutes
- Put half of the oil in with the clams, garlic & chilli, ready to add them in one fell swoop later, to the pan
- 4 minutes before the pasta is cooked, set a wide frying pan or casserole over a very high heat
- When its smokin’ hot, add – all at once –clams, garlic, chilli and oil
- Shake the pan a bit. Depending on the width of the pan relative to the volume of clams you may want to cover it for a minute or two, but the goal is for the clams to all open, and their juices to reduce to a scant couple of tablespoonsful.
- It is ok to cover the pan for some of the time or to add a dash of pasta cooking water, if it gets too dry. Conversely, if there is what looks like a puddle of water in the bottom, crank up the heat and evaporate it
- When the pasta is al dente – just a tad less cooked than you like – drain it, reserving some more of the water just in case
- Add the pasta to the clams, along with the chopped parsley and remaining oil
- Cook over the heat, stirring to coat the pasta and thicken the sauce.
- You can still adjust it by adding water (if too dry), oil (if unsure), or cooking longer together (if too wet or the pasta too crunchy for you)
- Taste for seasoning, and serve immediately
escarole & lemon dressing
I love all lettuces, and each has their peculiar charms, but if forced to choose a favourite, it would probably be escarole (scarola) – crunchy, fresh, with a hint of bitterness, it is all I could want in a leaf. In Italy, my mum makes a dressing – simply the best oil and the finest lemons, seasoned with a hint of their zest, a whiff of garlic, salt & pepper. It took me years to get the knack; now, the knack is in a little pot just for you.
Your pack makes a side for 2 and contains:
A bag of the world’s finest lemon dressing
- Put the lettuce in a bowl
- Season with a pinch of salt, and pour over the dressing
- Mix well (preferably by hand)
Rum baba, cream & strawberries
The French have left Naples a splendid culinary legacy, of which the best bit to my mind is the baba. The Neapolitans make it a great deal better than the French ever did. It is a lighter, springier affair, like a natural bath sponge made of the finest yeast dough.
Your pack makes a dessert for 2 and contains:
A pack of sugar, perfumed with lemon zest and juice
Lightly sweetened whipped cream
Fine summer strawberries
A generous drop of rum
- Decant the sugar and lemon into a small saucepan, and add 250ml water
- Bring to a boil to dissolve the sugar, then remove from the heat and let cool until hand hot (40C or so)
- Dip the baba into this, and very gently squeeze it – much like a sponge – to expel the air and draw in the sugary syrup
- Once gently massaged, let the baba sit in the syrup until ready to eat
- To serve, remove it from the syrup and nestle on its side into a shallow bowl or plate
- Cut down the exposed side about hallway through the baba
- Snip the corner from the bag of cream, and pipe it into this slot
- Slice the strawberries and scatter over
- Douse with the rum
- Eat with delight!