There are dishes which have their own name. Delicacies with a label. Symbols of ancient roots and traditions. In the kitchen invention and geography go hand in hand. Think of the Neapolitan Pizza, and you see a white disk materialise on your plate, because pizza was born and took its first paces in Naples. Once a poorman’s dinner today it is the symbol of “made in Naples” all over the world. Unlike the more common Margherita, the Pizza Napoletana has no mozzarella. The white base is topped only with tomato and oregano.
From Naples to Capri, which is so well-known for its torta Caprese, a sweet, round cake made from chocolate and almonds, without flour which is thught to originate here. Legend has it that in the 1920s a chef, Carmine Di Fiore, forgot to add flour to the mix of an almond cake he was making for three American gangsters. His error could have been costly, but instead it brought him luck: they loved it. Fiore started making it regularly. Another story, however, has the torta Caprese as the invention of anAustria, as a variant of Sachertorte.[charme-gallery]
Tradition attributes its invention of another dish to the Azure Isle: the Caprese salad, often appearing as an antipasto, and made from a few slices of buffalo mozzarella, slices of quality tomatoes and a light sprinkling of oil, salt and basil leaves (some may add oregano). Passing on to Nerano, we find spaghetti alla Nerano which is more famous than the town itself. There is more than one recipe and everyone believes their own is perfection. The sauce is made from diced courgettes and an abundance of flaked parmesan cheese, served either with a sprinkling of grated provola cheese or butter, chopped basil or only olive oil.
Another famous dish with a town name is gnocchi alla Sorrentina, ambasador of Sorrento through out the world. Though simple to prepare it is a wonder for the eyes and the palate, and most nutritious: pearls of potato-flour pasta covered with a sauce of fresh tomato, mozzarella cheese and fresh basil.[charme-gallery]
Another famous dish in Neapolitan cuisine also bears the name of a city: pasta alla Genovese. It seems strange that a dish from Naples should refer to the capital of Liguria, but in fcat, Genova nas little to do with it. Some think that the dish comes from the Aragonese period when the taverns of the busy port of Naples were full of Genovese cooks who produced a dish made of an onion sauce base and a cut of meat, whence the name. Others attribute the creation of the Genovese sauce to aNeapolitan cook with the nickname “‘o Genovese” and some would even have it that the term Genovese refers to the Swiss city of Geneva, or Geneve in French. The sauce, beef and copper-browned onions, cooked on a low flame, is a delicious accompaniment to rigatoni, paccheri or fusilli pasta.[charme-gallery]
The final dish not to miss is Cetara anchovies, named after a fishing village near Vietri sul Mare where they prepare an exquisite traditional sauce from pressed anchovies. The resulting liquid is a fantastic condiment for spaghetti.
We close with two special products of Campania Felix: Montella chestnuts and Controne beans. The prized chestnut of Montella, awarded PGI status, is widely used in the confectionary industry and so much in domand that Ferrero have an establishment a stone’s throw from the chestnut woods.
At Controne, in the heart of Cilento, a rare form of small, white bean grows. It is prized for its ease of digestion and makes for light bean dishes in the kitchen. The Controne bean already bears a DOC label and PGI status has been requested. It is among the typical products that Slow Food has nominated as Italian specialities to be safeguarded.