The Seafoodie – Linguine con le Seppie

If I had to name my favourite dish in the entire world, an Italian seafood pasta would certainly be among the top 3 candidates. Our love affair dates back to the 90s when I visited Lake Garda and had the most perfect plate of spaghetti ai frutti di mare.

I have tried to imitate the experience in my kitchen over the years. During the pre-Italian skills but post Lake Garda period, I fine-tuned my own version of spaghetti ai frutti di mare to a fairly pleasant one. Now that I am able to read the authentic recipes, I think I can safely say that Italians should not be deeply insulted by my interpretation either! Obviously I would need my own aquarium for an equally fantastic dish as in Italy since the amount of fresh seafood available in Finland is as limited as my baking skills at best. However, the frozen substitutes do serve as decent(ish) first aids for the most acute frutti di mare cravings – and as a bonus, are slightly cheaper than catching a flight to Milan.

I have usually used a frozen seafood mix but this time wanted to try squid. I found this recipe with fresh squid. It sounded quite fast and easy to make – yet the package of my frozen squid advised me to cook the squids for more than hour. As I get enough extreme experiences in my kitchen when baking, I did not feel I needed the additional excitement of potential food poisoning. Hence I decided to follow the instructions of my package. Googling this now, it seems that this contradiction wasn’t actually a case of stomach security but rather due to the fact that “Squid must either be cooked very quickly or for a very long time, otherwise it will be tough.” (BBC Food). Time is also a good friend of tomatoes which are cooked with the squid for the entire time.

All in all, this dish did a fantastic job at keeping this seafoodie satisfied for some time. However, I’m afraid it was less successful at keeping my dreams about those Milan flights at bay..!

Linguine with Squid

Serves 4

1 package of frozen squid

1-2 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped

1 small onion, chopped

fresh parsley, chopped

1 glass of dry white wine

400 g chopped tomatoes (1 tin)

olive oil

salt, pepper

320 g linguine

Thaw the squid, and rinse them with water, dry and finally slice them.

Heat some olive oil in a pan. Add the onion, garlic and parsley and cook for a few minutes. Add the squid and stir and cook for 5 minutes  Pour the white wine into the mixture and let it evaporate a bit. Add the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper to your taste. Cover the pan with a lid and let the sauce cook slowly at a low heat for 75 minutes.

Cook the linguine in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and combine them with the sauce and add some fresh parsley. Serve immediately.

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A Happy Reunion – Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

Apart from the obsession with the perfect pizza, during my journey of discovering the secrets of the authentic Italian kitchen, I have mainly been trying to cook dishes previously unfamliar to me. However, today I yearned for a reunion with an old friend of mine: spaghetti alla puttanesca.

I had some new Marks & Spencer’s linguine in my cupboard to be tested. Although Misters Marks & Spencer do not sound exactly like the most authentic pasta makers, their linguine really was quite delicious (and in fact produced by some Signor/ Signora named Felicetti). One of the great mysteries in life for me though is how there can be so vast differences between different brands of pasta. It is really just flour and water after all. Baffling.

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In addition to these important philosophical questions, for me another challenge with spaghetti alla puttanesca is capers. As they are something that I do use but less frequently, I am never 100% certain whether I have them available at home when shopping for the ingredients. As a result, I may soon have to dedicate an entire shelf in my kitchen cupboard for jars of capers. (I hope that none of my more organised friends who wouldn’t dream of hitting their local supermarket without a carefully prepared Excel spread sheet -based shopping list will read this.)

Anyway, with my improving Italian skills, I now investigated whether the authentic Italian way of making this dish (e.g. this, this and this) differs from the ones that I have earlier used. It seems that there are no big new secrets to unveil on this one. There are only some slight differences between the recipes which I guess are matters of taste when it comes to the amount of e.g. chilli, capers, anchovy and olives. But when the basics of this dish are fab to begin with, big new secrets are really not that necessary – or as they say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

Serves 4

400 g spaghetti

400 g chopped tomatoes

2-3 tablespoons tomato purée/ passata di pomodoro

3-4 anchovy fillets

100 g black olives, sliced

a pinch of dried chilli/ 1 fresh chilli

1-2 teaspoons capers

4-5 tablespoons olive oil

bunch of fresh parsley, chopped

salt and pepper

Pour a sufficient amount of water for your pasta into a kettle and bring it to a boil. Add some salt and the spaghetti.

While the pasta is cooking, prepare the sauce. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan. Add the garlic, anchovies and chilli and stir until the anchovy fillets have dissolved in the oil. Stir in the tomatoes and the purée and let the sauce cook for five minutes. Mix in the olives and continue cooking the sauce for another 5 minutes. In the meantime, drain your spaghetti al dente. Add the capers into the sauce, followed by the spaghetti and a couple of tablespoons of its cooking water. Stir well and let the dish simmer and rest for 1-2 minutes. Add the parsley and season with salt and pepper to your taste.