Published On: Sun, Jul 26th, 2020

Taste of Naples

Mario Matassa explores the riches of the food of Naples, perhaps the most iconically Italian of all cuisine.

Simply grilled vegetables, milky white balls of buffalo mozzarella, spaghetti with tomato sauce, pasta e fagioli (pasta with beans), clams with linguine, melanzane alla parmigiana, torta di ricotta, babà al rhum (just one in a long list of pastries), pizza, dark black espresso, and a bewildering array of ice creams. Nowhere sums up the essence of Italian cooking better than Naples.

The markets of Campania are envied the whole world over: crates stacked high with San Marzano tomatoes, fat purple aubergines, huge rounds of caciocavallo, provola and pecorino cheeses, olives, peaches, lemons the size of grapefruits – not to mention the seafood stall buckling under the weight of the day’s catch.

Once you have eaten a pizza in Naples you will never look at another in the same way. And a bowl of pasta con vongole by the waters of Santa Lucia harbour is an experience that can never be replicated. Neapolitan food soaks up not only the most delicious flavours of nature’s bounty, but also the fever, passion, joy and excitement of a people who, under the shadow of a volcano, know how to live for the moment.

Neapolitan cooking is, for most the part, very simple in technique. Take some ripe tomatoes, some of your very best extra-virgin olive oil, a few leaves of fresh basil and a fistful of garlic, and simmer until reduced. Throw some dried pasta into heavily salted boiling water, cook until al dente, and you have a Neapolitan signature dish: spaghetti con salsa al pomodoro. Nothing could be easier – or so it seems.

The key to this dish, and to any other Neapolitan dish for that matter, lies in the quality of the ingredients. Choose only the very best extra-virgin olive oil and, importantly, tomatoes that are at the peak of their season. It even helps to leave the tomatoes in direct sunlight for a couple of days to ripen further. You may not live on the shores of the Bay of Naples but you will be amazed at the difference a little sunshine makes. If you can’t get top-quality fresh tomatoes, use tinned, but buy the best you can afford.

Neapolitan Omelette

This frittata uses whatever is to hand, but always the Neapolitan staple of dried pasta. It is a great way to use up yesterday’s pasta and is often taken on Sunday picnics. Get the recipe here.

neopolitan omeletter

Aubergine parmigiana

Despite the name, this dish has nothing to do with Parma: it is as Neapolitan as Mount Vesuvius, but it does use Parmesan cheese. Few dishes better symbolise the cuisine of Naples. There are variations, including adding a few slices of cooked ham. Get the recipe here.

Aubergine parmigiana

Linguine with clams

In the restaurants of Santa Lucia this recipe is a daily fixture. The clams are delivered by small fishing boats to the restaurants in the harbour. You can add mussels or shrimps too, or have a combination of all three. Get the recipe here.

Linguine with clams

Ricotta Tart

In the restaurants of Santa Lucia this recipe is a daily fixture. The clams are delivered by small fishing boats to the restaurants in the harbour. You can add mussels or shrimps too, or have a combination of all three. Get the recipe here.

Ricotta tart

 

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