Buongiorno! Today, I am floating in Italian seafood heaven…
Do you remember in my last post, I talked about going for lunch with the relatives? (for which I made a rather delicious coffee, cardamon and pistachio cake…) Well, this was more than a little bit exciting for me, as our host, Anna, is a beautiful Italian from Naples who cooked up an authentic Italian feast of epic proportions!
Coming back from slightly hit-and-miss cuisine in sunny Venice, a table spread full of home cooked, Italian family recipes was beyond tantalising. Anna explained that each region in Italy has its own particular style and flavours, and these gorgeous little dishes from Naples didn’t disappoint!
After a refreshing glass of prosecco, we were met with an amazing array of antipasti: baked aubergine with mozzarella, parmesan and pancetta, bruschetta with fried courgette, buffalo mozzarella wrapped in parma ham and stuffed mussels. Every mouthful was packed full of flavour and brought a little bit of sunshine straight from Italy!
Next for the star of the show: Anna’s seafood spaghetti.
Now here is where I make my confession: if I was being completely true to the recipe, I would have used fresh clams instead of king prawns. But could I find these pesky little clams whilst madly dashing about this morning? The answer is no! A somewhat bizarre circumstance given that I live by the sea! Still, all seafood is good in my book, so in the king prawns went.
Incidentally, if you want to stay completely true to Naples cuisine, simply place the clams in salted cold water for a couple of hours. Rinse well and add them to the tomato sauce in place of the prawns. Heat until they open. Boom!
Also something I learnt while cooking this up: olive oil is good. Lots and LOTS of olive oil! Don’t be stingy with it; throw it in, be generous, drizzle it all over…it works! I think we Brits are cautious with too much oil, but as per Anna’s instructions I used more than I usually would and it gave a wonderful, silky smooth dimension to the dish.
This seafood spaghetti Napoletana goes beautifully with crusty loaves of warm ciabatta. Even better, take it outside and enjoy eating al fresco in the warm spring sunshine.
Whatever you do, this dish should be served with love in true Italian style: around a big, family table filled with happy chatter, obligatory glasses of white wine chinking, and shouts of ‘buon appetito!’
- 400g fresh mussels
- 3 tbsp olive oil (plus extra for drizzling)
- 25g flat leaf parsley
- 2 garlic cloves, finely diced
- ½ glass white wine
- ½ red chilli, finely diced
- 4 vine tomatoes, chopped
- dash of passata
- 150g king prawns, tails on
- 150g spaghetti
- Remove the beards from the mussels (the stringy bits that hang from the shell) by pulling them out.
- Place mussels in a bowl of cold water and rinse well. Drain and refill with fresh cold water; repeat this 3-4 times until water is clear. Discard any open mussels.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large pan. Add half the garlic and half the chopped parsley and fry for 1 - 2 minutes.
- Pour in the white wine and add the mussels. Turn to a high heat and cover the saucepan. Continue heating for about 3 - 4 minutes until the mussels have opened. Discard any closed mussels.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat but leave the lid on. When the mussels begin to cool down, remove half of the mussels from their shell and leave the other half still in their shell. Discard the empty shells. Leave all the mussels in the pan, shelled and unshelled, in their sauce, with the lid on to keep warm.
- Place the spaghetti in a large pan of salted water and cook according to pack instructions.
- While the spaghetti is cooking, take another large pan and heat 2 generous tablespoons of olive oil. Add the remaining parsley, the remaining garlic, the chilli, and fry for 3 - 4 minutes.
- Add the fresh tomatoes and a little dash of passata. Heat for 2 - 3 minutes. Add the king prawns, cover the saucepan and heat through for another 3 - 4 minutes.
- When cooked, drain the spaghetti. Pour all the mussels and their sauce over the spaghetti, reserving a few mussels in their shell to place on top of the spaghetti later. Now pour all the king prawns and their tomato sauce over the spaghetti as well.
- Mix the sauces and spaghetti together and serve, placing a few of the reserved mussels on top of the dish. Buon appetito!