There are those classic dishes at the core of every culinary culture.They look a certain way, they taste a certain way, only certain ingredients go into them, and they shouldn’t be messed with. That’s what I believe, and also what’s gotten me into trouble with my friends.
I can’t think of a single Italian dish, pasta or otherwise, that’s been bastardized as much as Spaghetti Carbonara, a dish dear to the heart of every Roman. It’s a simple dish of few quality ingredients, but if you can’t leave it at that and you just have to add artichokes or chicken or heavy cream—well, go ahead. But don’t call it Spaghetti Carbonara. Call it something else…and you can invite me to dinner another time.
Twenty-five years ago in London, I bought a cookbook by Antonio Carluccio, a transplant to England from his native Italy. Legendary in the UK, Carluccio is a stranger to the cooks of America. I love this video of him demonstrating the making of the authentic Spaghetti Carbonara. You, too, can do this. Hold the cream.
SPAGHETTI ALLA NERANO
If you’ve ever been to Positano on the Amalfi Coast, you’ve been close to the beautiful little village of Nerano, from whence originated this exquisite pasta dish known to all in the area as Spaghetti alla Nerano. Daniela Del Balzo (who has been my dear friend and mentor in the kitchen for a long time now) grew up in Naples and recalls spending many holidays in Nerano where she discovered this classic recipe.
And, by the way, your next trip to Rome would be incomplete if it didn’t include a market tour and cooking class in Daniela’s lovely home in the Aventino section of the city.
SPAGHETTI ALLA NERANO
by DANIELA Del Balzo of Daniela’s Cooking School in Rome
1 pound spaghetti or tonnarelli
3 medium zucchini (the skinnier the better)
3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup shredded Provolone Sorrento (soft provolone)
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 T butter
1/4 to 1/3 cup fresh basil
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Set a large pot of water on the stove to boil.
2. Wash zucchini, cut off the ends, slice into thin discs, and set aside.
3. When water boils, throw in spaghetti and cook to al dente stage according to timing on package.
4. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, place olive oil and garlic on medium heat. Brown lightly being careful not to let the garlic burn. Add the zucchini and cook until soft, stirring frequently.
5. When pasta is done, drain, reserving a few ladles of the cooking water.
6. Add the spaghetti to the pan with the zucchini. Place over medium heat, add both cheeses, basil, butter and mix well. If the sauce needs to be creamier, slowly add small amounts of the pasta water.
**The only fooling around I did with this recipe was to convert measurements from the metric system—so you don’t have to.