Some might say that pasta is my superpower. Whenever I feel the twang of homesickness or long to feel connected with my homeland, I can head into the kitchen and make a plate of pasta that instantly transports me to the streets of Italy, snug inside a cozy Trattoria. Want to know a secret? You can do that, too! Join me on a first class trip to Italy via your own kitchen. Here are 4 of Italy’s most iconic pasta dishes so you can live la dolce vita without leaving your home.
First Stop, Rome!
I was born in Rome, and have spent countless hours trying almost every plate of Carbonara on offer in my home city. Hard work, but someone has to do it. This recipe is also one that is in heavy rotation in my home. The origins of carbonara are somewhat controversial and mysterious, but the gorgeous and irresistible taste is undeniable. As the story goes, Carbonara was invented in Rome in the 1950s, post WWII to satisfy the cravings American soldiers had for bacon and eggs. Ironically, the cloudy origins have something in common with the secret to the creamiest carbonara; cloudy and starchy tears of the gods (aka Pasta Water). By tempering the rich egg yolks with starchy pasta water, you’ll create an unbreakable bond in the form of a sauce that clings to the pasta like a newfound lover.
Let’s Head South
As we travel south to Naples, things really start to heat up with this incredibly simple dish of Aglio, Olio & Peperoncino. To me, this dish is the essence of Italian cooking. A few high quality ingredients, prepared simply, transcend to pasta perfection. The key to extracting as much flavor as possible from the garlic is to add a splash of cold oil into the pan while you are simmering the garlic mixture. This will bring down the temperature of the oil quickly and allow the garlic to continue to infuse the oil with all of that gorgeous flavor without burning and turning bitter.
@the_pastaqueen Aglio, Olio & Peperoncino, the quickest most underrated Italian pasta dish #pastarenaissance #thepastaqueen #spaghetti ♬ original sound - The Pasta Queen
Next Stop, The Sea
Pesto Genovese is the most famous dish from the coastal region of Italy known as the Italian Riviera. As legend goes, homesick sailors from the region would bring a basil plant to sea with them to remind them of their loved ones on land. At sea they would assemble the classic Genoese pesto with fresh basil, garlic, Parmigiano-reggiano, pine nuts and gorgeous extra-virgin olive oil. The wives of these sailors would also keep a basil plant in the window as a beacon of love until their husbands returned safe and sound. I like to think the beauty of Genovese pesto is the basil’s proximity to the sea; while it grows the plant is infused with the terroir of the place; the salty sea air, the region’s rugged landscape yielding hearty and beautifully fragrant basil plants. While I can’t replicate this growing environment at home, I can tell you that growing your own basil is incredibly inexpensive and easy and will taste so much better than anything you’ll purchase at the grocery store!
@the_pastaqueen Pesto Genovese, a love letter to Disney and Pixar’s new movie. Luca. #ad #pixarluca #pesto ♬ original sound - The Pasta Queen
Summer In Sorrento
Spaghetti alla Nerano is a vegetable forward dish fit for the long, hot summers that occur in Sorrento where it was invented by a chef named Maria Grazia. As her name suggests, we should all send our thanks to Maria for inventing such a pasta icon. Once you have tasted the beautifully fried zucchini mixed with spicy provolone, butter and tears of the pasta gods; you’ll want to make this beautiful vegetarian dish once a week.
@the_pastaqueen Spaghetti alla Nerano by The Pasta Queen #spaghettiallanerano #pasta #italianpasta ♬ original sound - The Pasta Queen