This is a long post about a bowl of pasta, but it gets to the point in the end, I promise.
The boyfriend and I went to the Amalfi Coast two years ago and we were bowled over by the amazing scenery and food there. We based ourselves in Atrani, a small town about 10 minutes walk away from larger Amalfi and made day trips out to Positano, Ravello and Amalfi. The walk from Atrani to Amalfi involved walking up a steep flight of stairs right through a restaurant’s dining area and along the winding cliff’s roadside, avoiding any oncoming traffic that was barrelling down on us. None of the cars I passed by were dent or scratch-free.
Positano from the ferry (if you squint, you can see the grassy slope on the left where we walked up in search of a good lunch)
Anchovies on bread with Nastro Azzurro
So juicy and sweet!
Being the super-obsessive-about-planning-ahead-before-a-holiday person that I am, I was armed with a list of restaurants that we just had to visit. Closest to the beach were a couple of restaurants on the Via de Americas, that little road up the slope but somehow their menus didn’t appeal. As a last ditch effort we took the bus up the hills to Chiesa Nova and went to Il Grottino Azzurro. I think that was the name.
It was the kind of place where the locals look at you funny and the owner doesn’t speak a word of English. The kind of place where you spoke sotto voce to each other because you couldn’t really decipher the Italian menu. I have a quiet thrill about places like these. The restaurant itself was pretty dark with tile-lined floors and archways opening onto the main road. It was also quiet after the lunch rush. Now, I am a self-confessed meat-lover. So I have no idea why I decided to choose a vegetarian option that day despite being absolutely famished. But what a brilliant choice courgette pasta turned out to be! It looked like pesto, but it didn’t taste of basil at all so I settled for courgette in the end. It was just what an Italian mama would cook for her family. Molto bueno!
I recreated the recipe best I could when I got back. It is very simple to make, except for the part about chopping up the courgettes finely. If you prefer, just slice them up and bung them into a food processor instead. Call me odd, but I find the chopping bit quite therapeutic. The anchovies just provide a salty tang to the dish, don’t worry about them being fishy. I blend only half the courgettes and leave the other half chopped to give some texture to the dish.
Amalfitana Courgette Pasta
Makes enough for a girl and a greedy boyfriend, with some leftover
(or enough for 3 normal people)
2 whole courgettes, sliced and coarsely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped (or 2 or 4, depending if you’re a wimp or a vampire hunter)
2 whole salted anchovies
30g finely grated parmesan
2 tbsps olive oil
Enough boiled spaghetti for the above stipulated people
Use moderate heat. Heat the olive oil in a wok. I use a wok to prevent the courgettes from flying away. It gets pretty tricky with a frying pan, but it’s still possible if you’re careful. I’m not.
Fry the garlic with the anchovies, using your ladle to break up the anchovies. Add in the chopped courgettes and fry until the courgettes are soft. Take the wok off the heat.
Place half the cooked courgettes with some of the cooking juices into a blender and blend until it becomes a thick paste.
Add the blended mixture back in with the cooked chopped courgettes and place the wok back onto the heat.
If it looks too thick just add some water to loosen it up.
Add in the grated parmesan and stir to combine.
The mixture should be just thick enough to coat the pasta, and not too thin that it pools in the bowl.
Add in the boiled spaghetti, and stir around to coat it with the courgette mixture.
It shouldn’t need anymore salt as the parmesan is salty enough, but taste and season to your liking.
Serve into bowls and tuck in!