EXPERIENCE A TASTE OF PUGLIA:
SPAGHETTI CON LE COZZE
Chef Mario Batali is extremely fond of Puglia, also known as Apulia, which is the heel of the boot that extends along the southeast border of Italy and stretches out eastward towards Greece and Byzantium. Often considered the next “Tuscany” for the American traveler, this exotic, yet accessible place looks more like wind-swept northern Africa or sun-toasted Greece than any part of the rest of Italy. With nearly 500 miles of coastland that wraps around a geological treasure trove of variation, the people are a combination of poets, thinkers and workers; and when the people of the region and stunning landscape converge, it is a remarkable experience.
The food of Puglia is a sum of local ingredients, dominated by olives and their oil, dried legumes such as favas and ceci beans, wild foraged greens, onions and lily bulbs, peppers and wheat. The bread of Puglia is renowned throughout all of Italy and is used fresh, dried and stale in hundreds of dishes. The local pasta is made of durum wheat and water and is formed into chewy disks called orecchiette (little ears) or twisted pappardelle cognates called sagne, but commercially made dried strand pasta, often referred to as vermicelli in classic recipes, is used in many dishes. Cheese takes on certain spirituality in the form of burrata and, because the area is surrounded by water, fresh fish and seafood are often featured in traditional dishes, including this appetizing spin on spaghetti.
Makes 4 Servings | Region: Puglia | Book: Molto Italiano (Ecco 2005)
• ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
• 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
• 1 cup dry white wine
• 2 pounds small mussels, scrubbed and debearded
• 1 pound spaghetti
• ¼ cup finely chopped Italian parsley
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1 tablespoon hot red pepper flakes
Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot, and add 2 tablespoons of salt.
In a 12-inch sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook until light golden brown, about a minute. Add the wine, raise the heat, and bring to a boil, then add the mussels. Cook, stirring and tossing, until all of the mussels have opened, about 4 minutes.
Meanwhile, drop the pasta into the boiling water and cook until al dente; drain well.
Add the pasta to the pan with the mussels and cover over high heat for 1 minute. Add the parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes and serve immediately.
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