I grew up, since before memory, holidaying in Sperlonga – and still do. It is a small fishing village halfway between Rome and Naples, and over my 40 years grown into a boisterous summer resort for Roman and Neapolitan youth, who strut the streets and beaches like peacocks in an overcrowded enclosure. The rest of the year it is an oasis of tranquility, with sweeping views over the Ulysses coastline – the landscape, archaeology and culture tell of the earliest roots of our modern civilisation. The food speaks of land and sea – the dishes in this menu are for me the most evocative: spaghetti alle vongole (lunch almost every day at a beach shack, normally Bazzano resort or Il Selvaggio, each worth the very beautiful beach hike to get to); mozzarella paired with salted anchovies and encased in a fine crust of bread; and salads for my mum, who loves them and taught me to love them and to make them with equal relish
For your meal you will need:
A baking tray
Some Olive Oil
A large saute pan
A large pot for the pasta
Not strictly necessary, but a pair of tongs are near invaluable when cooking pasta
The detailed recipes for the dishes are below, but in essence:
- Preheat your oven, oil your carrozze, and bake them at high temperature
- Place on a pan of water for the spaghetti
- Eat the carrozze
- Cook the spaghetti
- While the spaghetti is cooking, cook also the clams
- Eat the pasta then dress the salad, or vice versa, then eat one followed by the other
- Let your pie come up to room temperature, then eat that too
Mozzarella in carrozza
The Italian prawn-toast, these are deep fried sandwiches stuffed with mozzarella and either ham, or as in our case, anchovies. Salty anchovies mixed with mozzarella form a common, and exceptionally delicious, thread in Roman cuisine. Though traditionally deep fried, in the course of our experiments we discovered they are not only healthier and significantly easier to make at home by baking, but all the better for it.
Your pack serves two and contains:
- Two ‘carrozze’
- A small tub of tomato sauce
You will need:
- A baking tray
- Some olive oil
- And if you have one, a pastry brush
- Preheat the oven to maximum
- Coat the sandwiches well on all sides with olive oil – a pastry brush (or squeezy bottle) can help)
- Place the oiled sandwiches on a sheet of greaseproof paper, on an oven tray
- Bake for 4-5 minutes, then remove from the oven, flip over and cook for a further 3-4 minutes
- Serve with the sauce – cold, or if preferred, gently warmed in a saucepan (or microwave)
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
Roman Lettuce & my mum’s dressing
I love all lettuces, and each has their peculiar charms, but if forced to choose a favourite, it would probably be Roman (Romaine) lettuce – crunchy, fresh, with a hint of bitterness, it is all I could want in a leaf. In Sperlonga, 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:
½ romane lettuce
A tub 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)
Burnt ricotta & sour cherry pie
If you take a stroll through Rome’s Ghetto (tied with Venice for the oldest in Europe), and turn onto the Via dell Portico d’Ottavia, you will come across an old bakery – Pasticerria Boccone – with an equally old oven. Everything that goes into it comes out scorched by the heat, with a delicate & delicious burned crust. Perhaps the best thing to come out of it is their ricotta pie, flavoured either with dark chocolate or, as here, bitter amarena cherries. Look at us – we’ve even burned your food for you.
Your pack makes a dessert for two, and contains:
- 2 hefty wedges of burnt ricotta & sour cherry pie
- Remove from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature
- Place on plates, or directly into hands, and eat
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.