As I have been making sauces from fresh produce for a few years, I was really excited about Chiara’s recipe selection today. I learned a lot from Mamma’s ‘secrets’. (I didn’t know that parsley became toxic if burned.) Also? They made spaghetti with James Bond. You just can’t get much more awesome than that.
Cooking and family memories go hand in hand for us, and one of Mamma Agata’s treasured memories is when Jacqueline Kennedy visited the Amalfi Coast with her son “John John” in 1962 and stayed at the Villa Civita in Ravello where my mother cooked. She always told me that Jacqueline was such an elegant and simple woman. One of her favourite dishes was Mamma Agata’s Spaghetti del Contadino, or Spaghetti of the Farmer, and she loved Mamma’s simple and genuine cooking. Often, Jacqueline Kennedy would join her in the kitchen for a cup of coffee and, after drinking it, she would wash the cup and place in back in the cupboard. Mamma Agata would always say to me, “Jacqueline Kennedy was a real lady!”
As our family has grown and my husband Gennaro has joined us in the kitchen to share his passion for cooking, we’ve experienced many special memories together. One of our favourites is when Pierce Brosnan and his wonderful family spent an amazing day cooking with us in 2009. Pierce loved cooking in the kitchen with Gennaro and Mamma Agata, and he especially enjoyed our Spaghetti del Contadino!
We’d love to share with you this special family recipe, which can be prepared very quickly … all in the time it takes to boil the pasta. If you’ve never made your own fresh tomato sauce, you’ll discover just how easy it is to make a fresh and healthy meal for your family!
Spaghetti del Contadino – Spaghetti of the Farmer
400 gr or 14 oz pasta (Spaghetti works best with this dish)
1 kg or 1 ¼ lb ripe cherry tomatoes – the riper the better!
1 Tablespoon fresh parsley (finely chopped)
6 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves (finely sliced)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 dozen green olives (with or without pits)
2 dozen black olives (with or without pits)
1 Tablespoon capers (packed in salt, if available, and rinsed)
1 cup fresh arugula leaves
Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and place them in a bowl with the chopped parsley. NOTE: If the cherry tomatoes are very large, you’ll need to cut them into quarters.
The riper the cherry tomatoes are, the sweeter and more delicious they are in this recipe!
Parsley is added to the tomatoes before heating them in the oil to enhance the flavour of the tomatoes. As the parsley sautés in the hot oil, it will lose some of its flavour. NOTE: If the parsley burns it becomes toxic.
Thinly slice the garlic and add it to the room-temperature extra virgin olive oil in a large frying pan. Slowly heat the garlic and oil over a very low temperature so that the flavour of the garlic will pass into the oil as it cooks the garlic.
Mamma Agata’s Secret
Add the garlic to room-temperature oil and gently heat them both at the same time. If you heat the olive oil before you add the garlic, the oil will be too hot and it will burn the garlic, making it bitter.
When the oil and garlic are warmed and gently cooked, add the halved cherry tomatoes and parsley, oregano, green olives, black olives and rinsed capers to the pan. Cook for five additional minutes.
Mamma Agata’s Secret
Mamma Agata uses capers preserved in salt as their flavour is much stronger. If you can find them, be sure to rinse them in water before adding them to the sauce to avoid creating a sauce that is too salty; salted capers naturally will retain some of the salt and properly salt the dish. If you use capers in brine, you may need to add salt to this dish to balance the flavours.
Boil the pasta until it is al dente. Drain the spaghetti and add to the pan with the sauce. Cook for an additional two minutes.
Add the arugula leaves to the pasta and sauce just prior to serving so that it does not lose its flavour in the cooking process.
Serve hot with a drizzle of olive oil to further enhance the flavours in the dish – and buon appetito!
For more of our family recipes and stories, I invite you to read our cookbook Mamma Agata: Simple and Genuine. We have shared our love and passion in this cookbook, and we are deeply honoured that it has recently made the shortlist for Best in the World for the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards for 2010! To learn more about our upcoming events visit us at www.mammaagata.com or find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MammaAgata!
Chiara, Gennaro, Mamma Agata, Mario and Paola