Monograno Felicetti

The second news in this newsletter is dedicated to Danny Imbroisi and his pasta carbonara, which the readers of Le Figaro consider the best in Paris. I’m very happy an Italian who knows what is necessary and what must be avoided in terms of carbonara was the one to stand out. When cooks abroad test themselves with this masterpiece, you can see all sorts of results. After all even Italians take a few liberties when they add cream, parsley, mushrooms, onion…

I remember in the Eighties, in England, a very nice place on the Channel that served a “carbonara” with cooked ham instead of jowl bacon with spaghetti drowning in cream. I chatted with the English patron until late at night and then, once back in Italy, I sent him the real recipe. He thanked me and when I returned, two summers later, what carbonara did I find? The one with ham and cream, of course. He felt that was the one, and that was what his clients liked, so why take the hard road if that meant disappointing those who had always followed him?

He exaggerated and for sure, today, if he were still there, he’d serve something more dignified himself. Yet it is true that when you present a national or regional recipe out of its usual context, it’s almost impossible for it to fully follow the tradition where it was born and developed. It is essential that the original raw materials are used and that the cooking times are respected as much as possible, dosing the riskier elements without altering the recipe’s soul. For instance, I would not use fresh pasta for carbonara, as it appears it is done in France, reading the article. Yet I live in Milan and love the typical pasta of Rome.

Paolo Marchi


Primo a Manhattan, Massimo Sola’s triumph

Primo a Manhattan had a significant resonance. It was an interesting event conceived by Giuseppe Di Martino, patron at Pastificio dei Campi in Gragnano (Naples). It took place a few days ago when they tried to wrap up and give value to the large number of Italian chefs in New York. Especially those who are keener on going beyond any stereotyped version of our cooking overseas.

«We organised it», says Di Martino, «with AicnyAssociazione italiana chef di New York, a rather interesting entity as it unites some 200 chefs of first – not second – generation who operate in the Big Apple. Because we believe it is a universe we must follow as those who were good in Italy, when they arrive in Manhattan or Brooklyn don’t automatically become very good, especially when they focus on the most contemporary aspects of a first course». 

Every chef sent a recipe. They first chose 70 out of which the 10 finalists were selected. They competed a few days ago at pizzeria Ribalta, «a sort of Italian gastronomic embassy». In the end, Massimo Sola won. He’s an old acquaintance of Identità’s as he was already at the helm of the kitchen at Eataly Roma and had a Michelin star at I Quattro Mori in Varese. 

Today he leads Mamo, in Soho. He conquered everyone with a Quasi Carbonara (in the photo), a close win over Vincenzo Garofalo of Le Cirque, author of Spaghetti with lemon, red prawns, liquorice and fresh mint and the Linguine smoked with apple wood, chargrilled date tomatoes, clams and extra virgin olive oil by Matteo Bergamini of Black Barn.

Looking at the photos of the 10 dishes in the finals, one is struck by the almost complete prevailing of spaghetti, «an atavic symbol of Italian restaurants in the US as well as an easier format of pasta to serve». Di Martino is already thinking of a second edition in New York, «getting non-Italian cooks involved as well, as a proof of pasta’s universal character». There’s more: «We’re already working at an edition in Chicago. And we would also like to do it in San Francisco and Seattle so as to finally get to the Primo d’America». 

Imbroisi, the best carbonara in Paris

We had missed the news but we must thank a tweet by Piedmontese journalist Gigi Padovani for having reminded us of this last Saturday. Some time ago, French newspaper Le Figaro asked its gourmand readers to judge the best carbonara in Paris.

The dish that was judged the best is the one by Danny Imbroisi, from Calabria, for some time now at the helm of restaurant Ida, in 11 Rue de Vaugirard, at the edge of the Jardins du Luxembourg.

The official motivation: «Our winner offers a delicious take on the recipe, while preserving the classic ingredients of carbonara, that is to say egg, pork jowl, pecorino and perhaps a little pepper ground on the spot». He received the highest marks by summing the 4 main parameters: lieu (restaurant setting), pâtes (choice of pasta, dry or fresh, and its cooking), sauce (the quality of the products chosen for the sauce, the successful bond with the egg, the choice of pecorino and parmigiano and pork jowl or pancetta) and the price/quality ratio.

Imbroisi won by a wide margin over Ober Mamma and Emporio Armani Caffè.

Martina Caruso’s midnight "spaghettata"

As common mortals we are facing weeks that will very likely be full of cofane of pasta: very large pots ready to be filled in the strangest morning hours with penne or spaghetti. With the risk of serving sticky and heavy dishes and/or always seasoned without enough sauce. In order to prevent this risk of failure, we asked Martina Caruso, a very young chef (yet already holding a shiny Michelin star) working at hotel Signum in Salina (Messina).

A few weeks ago she served us an exemplary midnight “spaghettata”: 5 kilos of Busiate – a sort of Sicilian fusilli made by twisting them around a branch of buso, the trunk of ampelodesmos – with cherry tomatoes, garlic, oil, chilli pepper, capers and parsley. And here are some precious tips from the chef.

- In case of large quantities, always prefer short pasta instead of spaghetti: they’re much easier to handle. Should you use spaghetti, finish the cooking in the pan (risottati).

- If you don’t have boilers, the ratio between cooking water and pasta is 5/7 litres per kilogram of durum wheat.

- Never discard the cooking water when draining the pasta: you’ll need it to soften the pasta a little, should it be too dry.

- When in doubt whether to make too little or too much sauce, always opt for the second option. Should there be some left over sauce, you can always use it in other ways.

- Pasta with tomato sauce: opt for cherry tomatoes, they bond better with short pasta compared to other varieties. 

- Grana Padano or Parmigiano are essential when finishing the dish. Do not exaggerate: 4 tablespoons is the maximum needed for 5 kilos of pasta. This way you avoid overkilling the flavour of the tomatoes which must prevail on everything else.

Should you really want to understand how talented this girl is with moderate quantities, ask for one of the three dishes of durum wheat pasta in the menu at the gourmet restaurant: Spaghetti garlic, oil and chilli pepper in seafood guazzetto with parsley sauceLinguine with almond milk and clams and Fusilloni with fiore sicano cheese and smoked mackerel tomato and apple

Lionello Cera: mullet in paradise

Spaghetti with mullet, mussels, almonds and lime. This is the peak of the “Oppure” tasting menu, a 150-euro (and 7 dishes) ride summing up the talent of Lionello Cera, chef at Antica Osteria Cera. A man who knows how to handle fish like few others. 

«Mullet», tells us the Venetian chef, «has a texture I adore. I take the filets, put them under salt for 40 minutes, and clean them well: this way, losing the exceeding water, they acquire a rather crispy texture. The mussels come from Scardovari, in Polesine, and are warmed up. They’re fantastic in that they are very fragrant. I leave the almonds to soak in sparkling water for 24 hours, so they become softer. Then I make a cream using the pacojet». 

An excellent cream. How about the spaghetti? «They’re cooked al dente and tossed in the pan with the sauce made with the mullet heads, a jus made by cooking them very quickly and lightly, with a softer taste than the classic bisque. The mullet is warmed up without cooking it and the spaghetti are drained and mixed with the almonds and the lime juice». A blast.

Sea lemons and the Bikini crusade

Spaghetti with sea lemons and wild fennel leaves. This is currently the most representative dish at restaurant Bikini in Vico Equense, with chef Domenico De Simone. It perfectly depicts the philosophy of patron Giorgio Scarselli who gives value to scarcely used fish, caught in the most sensible season. «What you catch and eat at the right moment», he told us during a recent long interview, «must depend on where you are. A model that would give value to many species that are hardly taken into consideration in our kitchens».

«Sea lemons - carnummole in our dialect, spuenzi in Taranto – are good and available all year round. You can find them at the market for 5 euros per kilo. «Between Bacoli and Pozzuoli they use them for excellent risottos. They have a strong acid and citrus note – hence the name – which is also the typical flavour of the sea bottom. They really taste like the sea. Asking for a fresh sea urchin in Campania in July makes no sense because the biological recovery period ends on 30th June and you need to give them time to reproduce».

RECIPE/Lo Basso’s Spaghetti and meatballs

These days there’s more than a way to taste the first courses prepared by Felice Lo Basso, chef from Molfetta with a pronounced sixth sense for dry pasta. The first chance comes from restaurant Felix Lo Basso which he opened only one month ago, overlooking the pinnacles of Milan’s Duomo. What to choose? Spaghettoni with baked tomato, ricotta from Apulia and basil, simple and delicious. 

You can have a second chance elsewhere, at Al Cortile in Via Giovenale 7, also in Milan. Don’t be scared if you read Spaghetti and meatballs, the most famous dish among Italian migrants in America. It’s not a heavy winter dish but a cold spaghetti recipe that is pleasant even on a very hot day: «You can also use buckwheat soba as it doesn’t stick when cold», says the chef.

«I cook the spaghetti for 3 and a half minutes and then leave them in warm water. I season them with vegetables, ricotta and add some more freshness with a base of tomato gazpacho». The meatballs are small, rather crispy balls of veal. A fresh first course, despite its name and origins.

Spaghetti and meatballs

Recipe for 4 people

320 g soba

for the gazpacho
500 g golden tomatoes
1 red pepper
1 red onion
1 cucumber
2.5 cm ginger root
1 tablespoon tabasco

for the fondue-mousse
300 g fresh cream
200 g ricotta salata

for the meatballs
150 g minced veal
1 handful of panko
to garnish
dried tomatoes
fresh basil

Prepare the gazpacho with the tomatoes, red onion, red pepper, ginger and tabasco. Clean the vegetables and blend them. Prepare the meatballs with the minced veal and spices, roll them in panko (the Japanese batter used for tempura) and fry them. Prepare a syphon with the mousse, melting half a litre of cream with the ricotta salata. Cook the spaghetti al dente and mix them with a little oil.

To finish
Cover the base of the dish with the cold gazpacho. Place a nest of spaghetti on top, cover with the ricotta mousse. Decorate with finely chopped dried cherry tomatoes, basil leaves and meatballs.

RECIPE/Domenico Cilenti and tubetti from Gargano

This dish was born from Domenico Cilenti’s love for the sea in front of Gargano. He’s the chef at restaurant Porta di Basso in Peschici (Foggia), «a land of magic», says the chef, «which gives me beautiful emotions every day». The dish gives a touch of elegance to tradition: «I tried to give all the wild aroma of tomato and rosemary to a classic dish from my area».

Tubetti with sea urchins and seafood mousse

Recipe for 4 people

320 g tubetti
1 garlic clove
Peranzana extra virgin olive oil
fish stock
green tomatoes
120 g fresh sea urchin roe
2 syphon charges

Pour the sea urchin roe in the syphon and add the fish stock. Season with salt. Charge twice. Put the syphon in the fridge for 24 hours. In a pan, brown some garlic and oil, add the chopped tomatoes and the parsley and pour two tablespoons of sea urchin roe. Season with salt and pepper and add the fish stock. Cook for 3 minutes only.

Drain the tubetti al dente and mix everything. Away from the heat, add the mousse, previously warmed up with steam. Serve the dish by pouring the sea urchin mousse from the syphon so as to cover the tubetti pasta.

A golden lunch for Emma and Valentina at Borgo Egnazia

From Friday till Sunday in Polignano a Mare (Bari) the 2016 edition of Vino Possibile, the event dedicated to delicious books curated by Rosella Santoro and Gianluca Loliva will take place. On Monday 25th July in Borgo Egnazia, in the beautiful resort of the Melpignano family in Savelletri, it will be the turn of the Pranzo Possibile event with the patronage of the Ministry for Agricultural Food and Forestry Policies. Seven fine dining chefs will cook to celebrate life in the name of Emma and Valentina, two girls with serious diseases to whom the proceedings of the lunch will go. For all info, including the IBAN code for the bank transfer, please click here.