Massimo Bottura is the chef at Osteria Francescana, a three Michelin starred restaurant in Modena, Italy. The restaurant is currently ranked second in the world on the San Pellegrino 50 Best List. The evolution of his restaurant along with an exploration into his twenty-five year career are documented in his book Never Trust A Skinny Italian Chef.
In an interview with KCRW’s Evan Kleiman he says his food is not modernist, instead he wishes to “bring the best of the past into the future.” For Bottura, the farmers and the artisans are the true heroes of Italy and his goal as a chef is to respect the ingredients. In his introduction to this recipe he writes, “Cetarese Spaghetti is the perfect example of the generosity of humble ingredients: with so little you get so much.”
Excerpted and adapted from Massimo Bottura: Never Trust A Skinny Italian Chef
In 1932, the Italian Futurist Filippo Tommaso Marinetti proposed a revolution in food. Absurdist banquets of idealistic food propelled esoteric dining into the future. Marinetti’s vision was not far from the mark if we consider our contemporary tendencies, but back in 1932 the general public overlooked the Futurist Food movement until Marinetti struck a nerve in the Italian identity. The Futurists announced to the public that it was necessary to abolish pastasciutta, the Neopolitan tradition of dried semolina-flour pasta with sauce. One can only imagine how this was received in Naples. The streets filled with protests against the Futurist declarations. In Luce Marinetti’s copy of The Futurist Cookbook there are clippings from the Chicago Tribune with the headline ‘ITALY MAY DOWN SPAGHETTI’. Italians, and the entire world, divided into two camps: those who believed in the power of pasta to feed, heal and console a hungry population, and those who felt it slowed down a nation and set back progress. According to Marinetti, a French journalist went so far as to declare that pasta was ‘the torpor of the masses… the origin of languid sentimentalism, serene irony, amiable indifference, and more’. Next to all the mad banquets and fantastical ideas proposed by Marinetti and the Futurists about cooking, the one that aroused the most resistance was the abolition of spaghetti.
We don’t serve spaghetti regularly at Osteria Francescana. We believe our guests will feel cheated because spaghetti is so everyday; it is the most common ingredient in the Italian pantry. This dish is an exception to the rule. It is dedicated to the town of Cetara, where so many Italian flavours originate. Cetara is a town on the Amalfi coast between Naples and Salerno. Its name most likely comes from the Latin word cetaria, meaning tuna fishing, or cetari, meaning fishmongers. The fishing village is famous for canned anchovies and tuna, and a Roman seasoning called garum, made with fermented fish, is made there in the form of colatura di alici, an anchovy extract unique to Cetara. The anchovies are pressed under salt. The orange liquid that floats to the surface is placed in glass jars and exposed to full sun to eliminate any excess water and leave only a pure anchovy extract behind. Bountiful and simple, it mirrors the location in which it is made. It’s like finding a bottle of sunshine when you reach into a dark cupboard.
The pesto for this spaghetti is made with hand-chopped anchovies, capers, pine nuts, garlic and colatura di alici, but the pesto is only half of it. Without a good-quality spaghetti and a proper cooking technique, this recipe will get you nowhere. We are faithful to no one when it comes to pasta, and we pick and choose from among our favourite producers. The spaghetti must be able to absorb the sauce without losing its bite. The secret is to boil it in salted water until half cooked, then remove it from the water. Add it to a warm pan with 20 drops of colatura di alici, the pesto and enough fish stock to cook it all the way through. Cetarese Spaghetti is the perfect example of the generosity of humble ingredients: with so little you get so much. You just want to keep eating it for ever. No apologies, Marinetti.
• 30 g salted anchovies from Cetara
• 100 g pine nuts
• 65 g salted capers from Pantelleria
• 1 garlic clove, grated
• 1 teaspoon Villa Manodori extra-virgin olive oil
• 100 g parsley
• 20 g Villa Manodori extra-virgin olive oil
• 4 g fine sea salt
• 1 head garlic, cloves halved
• 400 g whole milk
• a pinch of sea salt
• a pinch of sugar
• 200 g 2-day-old sourdough bread
• Villa Manodori extra-virgin olive oil, for frying
• Villa Manodori Essenziale red pepper oil
Clean and debone the anchovies. Chop the pine nuts, capers and anchovies to make a pesto-like mixture. Use a sharp knife, not a blender. It is very important not to crush the ingredients. Add the garlic and olive oil.
Blanch the parsley leaves in salted boiling water for 20 seconds. Chill them immediately in iced water, then pat dry. Put them in a blender with the oil and salt and process to a velvety texture.
Remove the heart from each garlic clove. Marinate in half the milk overnight, covered with clingfilm (plastic wrap). Discard the milk and reserve the garlic. Bring the remaining milk to a boil with the sugar and salt. Blanch the garlic for 1 minute in the milk, then remove it. Repeat this twice. Put the garlic in a separate container and use just enough of the milk to blend it to a creamy paste with a hand-held blender.
Cut the crusts off the bread. Tear it into small crumbs by hand. Toast the breadcrumbs in a pan with a little olive oil and red pepper oil.
• 360 g spaghetti
• Villa Manodori extra-virgin olive oil
• 800 g fish stock
• colatura di alici (anchovy extract)
Put the pasta in a large pan with 10 kg salted boiling water and cook until it is half cooked. Drain the spaghetti and return it to the pan with the colatura di alici, 1 tablespoon oil, the garlic cream and 1 tablespoon pesto. Finish cooking it as if it was a risotto, adding more fish stock and pesto as needed. At the very end, stir in the parsley oil. Top with crunchy breadcrumbs, as if they were grated cheese, and serve.