We’ve recently booked a long weekend away in Naples as a treat to ourselves and in anticipation of the food that we’ll be enjoying while we’re there, we’ve decided to create a fully Neopolitan menu for our next pop up restaurant.
The southern Italian city of Naples has been a gastronomic hotspot for centuries. A combination of its warm climate, fertile soil and rich sea life give the city all the ingredients to make great food. As a port city it brought in spices and ingredients from around the Mediterranean. Until today the surrounding areas are still well known for their olive groves, fruit orchards and vineyards. But the real story of Naples lies in its politics and economics with the wealthy and the poor creating their own culinary identities.
We’re particularly interested in ‘cucina povera’ or cuisine of the poor which is based on making the most of produce available to the city’s lower classes. This relies heavily on extracting the maximum flavours from seasonal vegetables with the more expensive meat dishes enjoyed only on special occasions. For our menu, starters will include Neopolitan favourites like spicy mussel soup; baked peppers stuffed with cherry tomatoes, anchovies and capers; and, from the nearby island of Capri, insalata caprese. These dishes are from this culinary tradition and their simplicity show that you can produce great flavours from just a few ingredients. This really appeals to us and it is the essence of what we’re trying to create with Butta la Pasta.
Our pasta main courses will feature classics such as Neopolitan lasagne; courgette with ricotta and herbs; and spaghetti baked in foil with prawns, white wine and chilli. The other pasta sauce we had to include is a Neopolitan ragu. Traditionally made on Sundays or for celebrations, it requires very slow cooking of meat with wine, onions and tomato sauce. No two recipes appear to be the same but ours will have beef brisket, pork ribs and Italian sausage. Cooked together over many hours, it will make a dark, rich, meaty sauce that we’ll finish off with parmesan and fresh basil.
Our desserts feature our usual selection of homemade ice creams (this is a Neopolitan menu after all!) and lemon tart made with Sorrento lemons. We’ve swapped our usual chocolate torte with torta caprese which is very popular around the region as well as in our house. It’s a light, flourless cake made with just five ingredients including dark chocolate and ground almonds. Served with creme fraiche, this will be a perfect ending to a great meal.
We think this is our best menu yet and we’re almost as excited about it as the holiday itself! We hope it will give you a taste of Naples and bring you a bit of Southern Italy here in sunny Sheffield.