Quick Rant on the Philosophy of Recipes
Recipes on this website will never be very specific. This is because they can’t be. Even when you buy a cookbook, the recipes you get and the ingredient quantities are never exactly what the chef who wrote it would use. You never get it perfect first time when you cook it, you have to make it, then see how it could’ve been better. Cooking is like a language in this way, you can read the grammar book and study the vocabulary, but it’s only when you get out there and start doing it that it becomes better. Just like a language where at first you can only use a few different aspects, you then start to get a sense of how you can put other things together to create new things, you also watch others and copy what you’ve seen.
So with this blog I aim to just bring you things that I’ve seen along with the principles behind them; there will be little or few written-in-stone recipes. In fact, it’s basically impossible to get a recipe with firm quantities in Italy because no-one uses them. You ask an Italian chef how long you should cook something for, they tell you that you have to watch and take it off when it’s ready. You ask them how much tomatoes to put in, they say it depends how much oil. You have to learn when things are ready yourself, you need to learn how quantities go together. Like a science, cooking is always variable, and you have to learn to react to it.
I suppose the point here is that good chefs will make this dish very well the first time, and maybe new one’s won’t, but in the process of doing it you are learning how to become this better, good chef. In fact, you’re learning how to become your own chef, where you cook dishes in your own style. And that’s how it will always work with any recipe, and that’s why I don’t see the point in completely to the letter recipes, and why I won’t be posting them.
So with that rant out of the way, I spoke with the chef who made me this delicious prawn linguine, the speciality of Taranto, Puglia:
Ok so this dish is actually very easy and quick, but it looks great, and I think makes quite an impressive plate of pasta to serve. It’s basically your standard pomodoro sauce with some prawns in it, which reminds me that I haven’t posted any recipes for making pomodoro… There’s a good reason for this however: a great chef in MIlan called Massimo has promised to show me the trick to making the best pomodoro in Italy and I’m waiting til then before I post. So be prepared for the Pomodoro 101 that will be coming up later, as if ever there is a dish to take from Italy it’s a properly made pasta pomodoro.
In the meantime we’ll work with what I already know, and we’ll get back to this dish.
You need for 500g linguine:
Around 25 whole scampi, unpeeled left as is. (Note: you could just do this recipe with some prawns from the supermarket too, but it wouldn’t be quite the same or look so interesting)
14 or so medium size, fresh tomatoes, quartered.
A heap of olive oil
5 cloves of garlic*
OK so pomodoro is damn easy, and so is this dish. Pour a good load of olive oil into your frying pan so that there’s a good shallow pool of it, then on low heat, add the garlic cloves. Leave for a minute. Add scampi, and cook for 3-5 minutes. Add tomatoes, fry for another 10 minutes, until tomatoes are very soft and are practically dissolved into the sauce. Salt and pepper, mix together with pasta and then sprinkle chopped Parsley ontop of each plate.
The dish I ate was from Zio Angelo (Uncle Angelo), and his was very oily (as you can see from the pool of oil in the picture). It was fantastic, but maybe I would’ve used a little less. This isn’t to say I would do it better, but it really demonstrates my above point that there is no correct quantity. Make it, then decide if you want more oil or tomatoes the next time. Though in saying this, don’t be scared to unleash that oil into the frying pan… something I’ve noticed in Italy is that they use about 4 times what I see people use back in England, and it’s usually bang on the correct amount.
So that’s pretty damn simple, getting hold of the fresh scampi is another story, but as I said, even with prawns would be good. So go home and make it tonight, and enjoy a great plate of pasta in just 15 minutes.
Bonus Picture 1: Just so you know I always have my company at dinner