The Strega Nona Spaghetti Experiment
There is something very pleasurable about pasta. Golden ridged tubes, pretty yellow twirls, flappy butterfly farfarelle, or tangled tagliatelle – whatever their shape – they all make for comforting bowls of scrumptiousness.
I think that knowing that most pasta is still made by hand makes it taste even better. I recently watched ‘Two Greedy Italians‘ on the BBC which had two old Italian mamas still making pasta. To get the twist, they used an old umbrella spoke.
Growing up my mum would always make farfarelle pasta with thick cheese sauce, ketchup and hunks of roasted gammon. Mmmm. When Mum was away at work, Dad would make spaghetti and bolognese sauce in a mixing bowl and bake it in the oven – I don’t know why it needed to be in the mixing bowl, but it was still good and he would carve up the mess of meat and pasta and serve it to us.
The best pasta dish I ever had was at the Ristorante Bucci in Castel Gandolfo in the south east of Rome overlooking Lake Albano. The location is ridiculously beautiful and where the Pope goes for his summer holidays (In fact we had just been chatting with the Jesuit Astrophysicists who live in the Pope’s observatory – yes – he does in fact have his own observatory to look out for little green men! Make of that what you will). Perched on the balcony of the ristorante, I dined on Orecchiette (small ears) pasta with bacon, broccoli, broad beans and cubes of mozzarella. Salty and fresh at the same time. It was utterly delicious.
The english translation on the restaurant’s website is brilliant: “Bucci Restaurant is situated in the storic centre of Castel Gandolfo facing the homonimous lake…we would be glad to put up you in our inside room or in the suggestive atmosphere of our open balcony.”
Back to pasta. The magic pasta pot of the witch Strega Nona was the most frightening thing at the age of 8. Poor Big Anthony borrows the magic pasta pot, and casts the pasta spell. Unfortunately, he doesn’t know how to stop the pasta and it floods the town. As a punishment he has to chomp his way through the sea of pasta!
The idea of making my own sea of pasta was too irresistible – so I ordered 20 packets of pasta in the weekly shop – much to the surprise of the delivery man. The only problem was that I would need some sort of cauldron to cook it all in. Unable to purchase a cauldron on Amazon – I used all the pots and pans in the house instead.
The spaghetti got completely out of control. It turns out that 8 packets of spaghetti makes enough to feed a bus load of people. 10 packets, and the laws of gravity cause your mountain of pasta to erupt onto the kitchen floor. At the 11th packet, it was getting ridiculous, so I had to call a stop to the Strega Nona Spaghetti experiment. I had achieved what I wanted. I had made an obscene amount of pasta – and yes – the pasta had indeed flooded the kitchen. We then spent the rest of the morning playing with the pasta, first we covered it in chilli sauce, then we inserted whole chilis peppers into it – and played hide and seek.
I went out to the shops and came back to find the bowl was empty! Whoever ate it is probably feeling very ill.
Foody Footnote: Spaghetti – means ‘strings'; Vermicelli – means ‘little worms’ and Linguine – ‘little tongues’.
Spaghetti with a Sparkler Recipe
This dish is inspired by the Crab Shakk in Glasgow which does the most amazing seared scallops in anchovy butter.
1 fiery red chili
Slivers of shiny red onion
3 slippery anchovies
1 clove of garlic
a dollop of coconut oil
two handfuls of prawns
a cluster of scallops
salt and pepper to season
1/2 cup of double cream
pasta for two (tagliatelle or spaghetti)
Fry the onions until soft, add in the anchovies until they melt into the oil. Add the chorizo until your pan looks as red as a bull fighter’s cloak . Then throw in your prawns followed by the scallops. Add a dollop of butter if needed to keep things looking glistening and sumptuous. Meanwhile cook your tagliatelle in boiling salt water.
Throw in the chopped chilli and parsley. Toss the seafood mixture in with the tagliatelle and cream and serve with a fork – preferably a silver fork.
For more books of tangled spaghetti plots and silly stories click on the images below. Why not read the books then cook them!