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A recent trip to Italy left me speechless. How and why are the Italians able to eat so well even when the ingredient list is narrowed way down by their penchant for eating locally and seasonally?

We were on the beach in Positano, in a lovely open air restaurant with a vine covered open air trellis above. My dining companions Joanne, Mark and my husband Marvin were all in good spirits after our bustling five day marathon through Abruzzo. The Caprese salad that I greedily consumed made me feel like I was eating Italy. Following Joanne’s lead, I dressed the salad with nothing more than salt, pepper and the miraculous olive oil provided. The tomatoes were perfection- adding just enough acidity without requiring any vinegar. The buffalo mozzarella was the most perfect texture and flavour. Just a few basil leaves were sufficient to meld the flavours into symphonic harmony. It didn’t hurt that the thickly sliced, crusty Italian bread was also note perfect.  Only the waiter caught us off guard as he was completely sympathetic and efficient, the standard in Abruzzo but surprising in a touristy haven.

Enough about Positano and Caprese salad that tastes like Italy. This blog is not a travel blog. It is not a restaurant review blog. It is only about home cooking. So here goes.  Think of this recipe as interactive.  Two of the main ingredients are homemade from Italy and we need to work together to establish whether or not they can be found or made here at home.  If you have any information at all please share!

Ingredients

The inspiration for this recipe came from the town of Lanciano where we had lunch at the Taverna da Filippo. The restaurant was tantamount to being invited into the owner-chef’s home and being told that we’d be eating pasta.  Who wouldn’t agree?  As we tasted our first bite the questions started firing and the answers were very accommodating. I left the Taverna with a jar of  medium spicy, Italian red peppers, basking in olive oil, a baggie with dried, pulverized, mildly spicy Italian red peppers– the long, skinny ones (I think)– and preparation instructions.  According to Oscar Wilde “The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it.” So, for all you low carb, pasta yearning eaters, dig in.

Meet the key ingredient to a wonderful flavour. Medium spicy Italian red peppers in oil.

Anyone know the deep dark secret of how to make this red pepper in oil condiment pictured above?  A very kind gentleman at Milano’s tried to explain it to me but I didn’t catch all the details with my rusty Italian combined with my even rustier memory skills.

Spaghetti with Peperoncini, garlic and olive oil

Ingredients:

  • 1 package of good quality spaghetti, like de Cecco
  • 4 T olive oil
  • 8-10 garlic cloves
  • 2 T dried, mildly spicy, Italian red pepper powder
  • 2 T pulverized medium-spicy Italian red peppers in olive oil, served on the side as a condiment
  • finely chopped parsley – optional

Meet the second very important key ingredient. Mildly spicy Italian red pepper powder. Anyone ever see this in our markets? I haven't yet located this mild version, only the very spicy chili peperoncini is readily available.

Heat your olive oil with 8-10 whole, peeled garlic cloves. Add 2 T of the Italian red pepper powder, stirring and blending for several minutes. Toss with well strained al dente spaghetti cooked in plenty of boiling salted water. Reserve some of the cooking water to moisten the pasta as required.

Serve with the roasted medium hot red peppers, on the side, after blending them with a mortar and pestle into a rough paste.

This dish is usually not served with parmesan, as it would mask the delicate flavour of the peppers, but feel free to follow your taste buds wherever they take you.

Garlic cloves softened in olive oil then cooked a few minutes with the red pepper powder.

The recipe is crazy simple, and simply delicious. So satisfying, you will want to eat it as often as possible.  It helped to have my sister Julia present to adjust for quantities and give opinions. Joanne happened by as well and she insists that the key ingredient is the Italian red roasted peppers in olive oil. We are both out sourcing this delectable product that turns your spaghetti into unbelievably delicious pasta.  Anyone know where this can be found?

This is how the peppers in oil look after being pulverized with a mortar and pestle. About 2 t was enough to flavour one portion.

Serve this Peperoncino pasta with the insalata mista from the “In Vino Veritas” Jittery post, and some Dark Chocolate Bark from the “Yes, we’re going to a party, party” post for dessert. Mmmmmm good!.

Not quite as yummy as the homemade one from Lanciano, but available at Milano’s Supermarket on St. Laurent.  Interesting flavour as it is a mixture of several vegetables, including hot peppers, eggplant, artichoke, porcini mushrooms in olive oil and white wine vinegar. It is billed as a typical Calabrian delicacy, “Love’s Bomb” or “Boom…Ba dell’Amore”.  I have to admit it is a fun taste test to try these hot peppers and compare flavours. They will not go to waste, I’m already planning to layer them on pasta, pizza, mild fish or chicken.

One more option from Milano’s Supermarket, “Aurora” hot sliced peppers.

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