_ Affairs ofthe stomach
Restaurateur, food writer and TV chef Antonio Carluccio talks to Sue Wilson about his love affair with pasta.
A big. hearty. ebullient man. Antonio Carluccio looks like someone who enjoys a lot of pasta. ‘Enjoys’. in fact. is probably rather too restrained a term. given the title of his new book about Italy‘s national foodstuff. Passion For Pasta. After a varied and much- travelled career as a sailor. journalist. electronic technician. athlete and wine merchant. Carluccio — already an enthusiastic home cook — found his true vocation in 1981. when he was offered ajob as manager of Covcnt Garden's Neal Street restaurant. then owned by his brother-in—law. Terence Conran. Since then. he has bought out the business. proselytised extensively in print and on television about ltalian and Mediterranean food. and opened a specialist shop. Carluccio‘s. adjacent to his eaterie. where he recently spotted the high-heedyins of Sainsbury's and Marks & Spencer browsing the shelves. cheering evidence that the big food chains are also getting serious about pasta.
As every student knows, pasta is wonderful stuff - cheap. filling. quick and easy to prepare. and somehow immensely satisfying. even comforting. ‘lt’s a really likeable food.‘ says Carluccio. ‘l’ve never met anybody that said they didn’t like it.’ But ifyour pasta repertoire extends no further than lasagne and a few variations on tomato sauce. Passion For l’asla will swiftly have you salivating over the likes of tagliatelle with chicken livers. sedani with courgettes and walnuts. papardelle
with game and ceps. agnolotti with ricotta and trufﬂe. black angel‘s hair (coloured with euttlefrsh ink) with scallops and macaroni with fresh sardines. lt progresses from soups and basic sauces. through recipes for fresh plain. fresh ﬁlled. dried egg and plain dried pasta. to tirnbales. leftover suggestions and even a few pasta puddings. with an introductory guide to the contents of a well-stocked Italian larder and clearly illustrated. reassurineg simple instructions for making your own pasta.
As the above list of dishes suggests. there are considerably more pasta shapes than the six or so regularly to be found in British supermarkets. in fact. Carluccio reckons that different varieties number 3()(M(X) these days. with more being invented all the time. ‘lt‘s a constant evolution,’ he says. ‘In fact. one company. Buitoni, i think, employs a couple of women who do nothing but test new shapes of pasta.’ The basis of such testing is the fact that each shape is particularly well matched with a particular sauce -— it may sound like foodie nonsense. but Carluccio is insistent on this point. ‘Because of the particular sensation each shape produces in the palate; a certain shape will give the maximum flavour with a certain sauce.‘ he says. ‘lt's extraordinary. but if you eat the same sauce with ﬁve different types of pasta. you will find one which tastes better. seals best to the palate. Some types of pasta. in fact. are used only for one sauce.’ Carluccio himself has contributed to the pasta lexicon with brandelli. meaning ‘in tatters’. which he laughineg admits. ‘came out of laziness. really — I had a sheet of pasta
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V. ’x’ “ ‘ andjust tore it up into irregular pieces instead of cutting it — irregularly cut pasta is called maltagliati. “badly cut”. Afterwards I discovered it (lid have a purpose — with the rough edges. it absorbs more. and goes particularly well with a sauce of artichokes.‘
With many of Carluccio's recipes. the overall style is recognisable from the current vogue for Mediterranean cooking — good olive oil, fresh herbs. lots of vegetables and seafood. unfussy combinations of flavours. His extensive knowledge of ltalian regional specialities. however. means that he includes something for all tastes and occasions — for those who prefer richer fare. there are the dairy<based dishes of the North. impressively elaborate dinner-party delights abound. and vegetarians are amply catered for. He includes a good many recipes suited to dried pasta. but his true love is clearly the fresh. home-made variety. and he builds a convincing case for it being far easier to make than is generally believed. And what‘s really refreshing is his enthusiastic endorsement of individual experimentation. ‘Anybody can do any sauce.’ he says firmly. ‘provided you follow the basic principles — you have to have a little bit of fat — oil or butter. or even cream — you generally need onion. or garlic. or a bit ofboth, and usually you have some kind of herb or spice. After that you can add anything else you imagine would be suitable — l'd encourage everybody to invent and improvise, because then you can discover some wonderful things.’
Antonia Carluccio 's Passion for Pasta is published by BBC Boo/ts at £15.99.
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FLAVOUB OF THE FORTNIGHT TAGLIOLIHI PHIMAVERA
Antonio Carluccio’s simple springtime variation on pesto, bursting with the flavour of fresh herbs - he recommends using at least five different ones if you can get hold of them. Tagliolini is a fresh pasta, like thin tagliatelle; if making it is beyond you, buy it from a good supplier (badly made fresh pasta turns horribly sticky when cooked) or substitute with dried Iingue di passero, a type of flat spaghetti. Serves four. 301/759 butter 1 clove garlic, peeled and very finely chopped 8 tablespoons chopped mixed fresh herbs, eg basil, mint, coriander, dill, chervil, parsley, chives 1 tablespoon finely chopped sage, or rosemary, or oregano 101/259 toasted hazelnuts grated rind of half a lemon 302/759 fresth grated Parmesan cheese 4 tablespoons virgin olive oil salt freshly ground black pepper 1lb/450g fresh tagliolini Melt the butter, add the garlic, and gently heat it through - do not try it. Add the herbs, hazelnuts, lemon and half the Parmesan cheese. tlow stir in the olive oil, salt and pepper. Meanwhile, cook the pasta for one minute or until al dente, drain and toss in the sauce. Add a little of the cooking water if the mixture is too dry. Serve sprinkled with the remaining Parmesan cheese.
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The List 7-20 May 1993 89