This week, Juventus journey south to pay a visit to S.S.C. Napoli and look to echo their performance from October which saw la Vecchia Signora triumph over Partenopei with goals from Caceres and Pogba. Admittedly, the city of Naples has never been on my list of must see destinations. All the stories that I’ve heard from other travelers read like cautionary tales. At best, it seems like it’s a place to quickly pass through to catch a boat to go to the sunny shores of Capri. At worst, well, we’ve all seen Gomorrah. Still the city and its surrounding area have contributed much to Italian culture not the least of which being its fantastic cuisine.
Campania, the south western region of Italy of which Naples is the capital, is known for its food. In particular, there are some choice items which have become the gold standard ingredients for Neapolitan cuisine: San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella di bufala, and Gragnano pasta. I decided to use two of the three and make a dish that originated in Campania: spaghetti alla puttanesca.
Full disclosure, this TeamEATS guest blogger is not a cook by any stretch of the imagination. Toiling away in the kitchen seems a criminal waste of time when there are so many excellent places to eat in New York. During those sporadic instances when I’ve been seized by a fit of inspiration to indulge my limited (emphasis on limited) culinary skills it usually involves a dish with minimal preparation and cooking time. While Naples may be synonymous with pizza and readers may have been expecting a Napoli pie for this week’s edition, making dough involves both a commitment and a skill level beyond my capabilities which, if you’ve been paying attention, we’ve established are limited.
The allure of puttanesca is that it is quick and easy, much like the colourful ladies of the night from which it allegedly takes its name. This version will use anchovies as it would be remiss to exclude fish when Naples sits on the sparkling sea and, quite frankly, they add a wonderful burst of flavour to the sauce.
While using fresh San Marzano tomatoes would be optimal, in the interest of making a regionally authentic puttanesca while residing thousands of miles away from Italy, the canned variety will have to suffice. Normally, I avoid processed vegetables but if there is one thing that the Italians, and many of their Mediterranean neighbours for that matter, get right it’s the incredible quality of their canned goods. In New York, we’re fortunate to have an outpost of Italian supermarket Eataly smack in the middle of Manhattan, overflowing with all things edible and Italian. They do have an online shop if you’re interested. Full credit must be given to Eataly for making this non-cook look like a seasoned professional – much in the same way that Walter Mazzarri must be given credit for making Napoli look like the anti-Juve.
Subscribing to the notion that food and wine pairings are relative, there is something to be said for the alchemy of eating food from a certain region and drinking a wine from the same area. But it was pouring rain in New York this weekend and I didn’t have any wines from Campania kicking about so opted for a 2005 Ascheri Barbera d’Alba Fontanelle. Welcome to TeamEATS Napoli vs TeamDRINKS Torino. You may have invited Juventus for dinner, Napoli, but please allow us to bring the wine. Any medium bodied red with a velvety finish will do. You don’t want anything too overbearing as olives, anchovies, capers, and tomatoes are a lot of competition for wine.
Spaghetti alla Puttanesca
Difficulty: As easy as mugging Hamsik from a scooter
Price: $5.80 for Gragnano spaghetti;
$3.80 for can of San Marzano tomatoes;
capers – depends;
$5.80 for anchovies;
Taggiasche olives – empty your wallet (ideally, look for Gaeta olives);
Roughly $20.00 for a bottle of 2005 Ascheri Barbera d’Alba.
Time: 10-15 minutes
1. First off, let’s remind ourselves who we’re up against this week. This will either put you in the mood for TeamEATS or entirely destroy your appetite.
2. Fill a large pot with water and set to boil on the stove.
3. That wine is not going to decant itself. Open the bottle and pour into decanter. Yes, you may siphon off a half a glass to drink now. The wine that I chose needed to be decanted as there was some sediment. You may not have to undergo this step with the wine that you choose. Carry on.
4. Time to get the knives out. Here’s the soundtrack for the chopping block portion of the meal preparation.
5. Peel and chop your garlic coarsely and also the anchovies, tomatoes, and olives.
6. After the water is boiling, add salt (go light with the shaker as there are enough flavour components in the sauce), then drop in the spaghetti to cook (al dente – this is a Napoli tradition!).
7. Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high and add a healthy swirl of olive oil so you’ve got some good coverage of the pan.
8. Add the chopped garlic and red pepper. Stir continually so nothing burns.
9. Once the garlic is lightly browned, add the anchovies. Add the tomatoes and stir and let cook for a couple of minutes.
10. Add the capers, olives, oregano and cook for a couple of minutes to thicken sauce.
11. When pasta is ready (don’t forget – al dente) drain it and then add the spaghetti to the sauce. Stir over low heat to combine for a minute.
12. Plate the pasta, garnish with fresh chopped parsley, and Consume!
I knew that shopping bag from Juventus Stadium would eventually come in handy! Forza Juve!
Back by popular demand, TeamEATS is a culinary guide to cooking and consuming the opposition. Each week, we pick a recipe from the home cuisine of Juve’s upcoming adversary, put on the kitchen apron and… cook it and eat it. Buon Appetito!