Tuscany meets Maine

Summer’s star on two continents

Marcella Ansaldo
June 17, 2010

This will be my fourth summer in Maine. When I first set foot in Maine, two friends of mine, Berno and Laura Hamilton, welcomed me into their home, a cottage behind a row of pine trees off the Sommes Sound. Berno drove me around the island in an old-fashioned convertible car, along a road cutting through magnificent forests and suddenly opening upon breathtaking views of the sea around us, dotted with colourful lobster boats and sparkling brilliantly in the Maine sun. It was then that my love for America and its glorious nature began, and the connections between my Italian soul and an American one were established. Nostalgically, I found Mount Desert Island, Maine, and the island of Giglio, where I was born, similar.

 

I wondered what to prepare for my hosts for dinner that summer evening. To me, no pasta is better suited to hot, lazy weather than an easy-to-make, flavourful dish with summer's uncontested star: the tomato. Although available throughout the year, the tomato is ‘vine-ripened' in the traditional sense only during this season.

 

And so, after making my first meal in Maine, I realized that what Americans appreciate most about Italian cuisine is its simplicity. Here is one of Bern's favorites.

 

 

RECIPE

FUSILLI WITH SPICY TOMATO SAUCE

Serves four

 

 

350 gr (12 oz) fusilli pasta

4 tbs extra virgin olive oil

1½ lb. San Marzano tomatoes

Coarse salt and normal salt

1-2 hot chilli peppers

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 salted anchovy fillets

1 tbs capers

2 oz baked black olives,   e-pitted and chopped

½ tsp fresh oregano, chopped

4 fresh basil leaves, chopped

1 oz grated Pecorino Romano cheese

 

Bring a pot of water to boil. Score the tomatoes with a criss-cross cut on the bottom. Immerse them into the boiling water for about 10-15 seconds, then drain and put in a bowl with iced water to stop the cooking. The thermal shock will prevent them from continuing to cook and lose consistency. Peel them, cut in quarters and remove the seeds. Julienne the tomatoes.

 

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. When it ripples, add the garlic and chilli peppers. As the garlic starts to become golden (not burned!), add the anchovies and crush them with a wooden spoon.

 

Add the julienned tomatoes. Cook for a few minutes, then add the capers and olives. Leave briefly to cook to blend all the flavours. Add salt to taste (but not much: capers and olives are already salty). Add freshly chopped oregano and basil.

 

Bring another pot of water to boil. As it starts to boil, add a generous handful of coarse salt (2 tbs). Cook the pasta until al dente (check the package for cooking time). Drain the pasta, and toss it into the skillet with the sauce. Serve with a generous handful of Pecorino Romano.

 

 

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