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.
FUSILLI WITH SPICY TOMATO SAUCE
350 gr (12
oz) fusilli pasta
4 tbs extra
virgin olive oil
1½ lb. San
and normal salt
1 tbs capers
2 oz baked
black olives, e-pitted and chopped
½ tsp 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.