Pasta allo Scarpariello

Pasta allo Scarpariello from Campania

This is probably the simplest yet most quintessentially Italian dish one can think of.

paccheri allo scarpariello
It's even the same colours as the Italian flag...

The word Scaprariello may for many of you call up images of delicious bites of chicken, flash fried with garlic and white wine, rosemary and various other ingredients, but this dish, while yummy, is actually not Italian. It’s Italo-Americano!  The original dish is made with pasta, tomatoes, garlic, chilli, fresh basil and lots of cheese.

The name itself is napoletano in origin, coming from the word scarparo , meaning cobbler or shoemaker. Apparently, because the women worked hard alongside their husbands they had little time to cook and made quick meals like this one. In addition, when people couldn’t pay the scarparo for his services, it was common for them to exchange (cheese, for example) are ingredients in this recipe.

I don’t know if the story is true in all honesty, but I like it!

The first time I tried this, we were with  the Italian boy’s  dad in a restaurant. I didn’t know this at the time, but the man LOVES scarpariello. As in orders it every time we go to a restaurant loves it. So much so, that when we went to a restaurant last year his fame had preceded him and we sat down to bocconcini allo scarpariello, pizza allo scarpariello and paccheri allo scarpariello.  I was almost afraid to taste the desert in case it was tiramisu allo scarpariello (It wasn’t, thank goodness)!

Anyway, this dish remains a good recipe for when guests turn up without much warning, as we usually have all of the ingredients in the fridge.

You will need (serves 4)

100g of paccheri or other pasta (penne work well)
Olive oil
Chilli flakes or one red chilli pepper
Two cloves of garlic
100 g pecorino romano cheese, grated
100 g parmesan cheese, grated
1kg fresh tomatoes
Fresh basil to taste
salt

NB if you can’t get pecorino you can just use double the amount of parmesan, but may find you need more salt as it is a milder cheese.  Also note that I use huge amounts of tomatoes because I like to get lots of sauce!

1. Wash the tomatoes then chop them roughly. Some people remove the skins, but I prefer the rustic texture you get if you leave them on.

2. Finely chop the garlic (and the chilli if you are using fresh) and gently fry until the colour begins to change.

3. Add the tomatoes and let cook over a low heat until soft and, well, sauce like! Add a pinch of salt if you would like, but remember the cheese is salty.

4. While the sauce is bubbling away, cook the pasta as  per instructions – paccheri take a while so read the instructions!

5. When the pasta is almost done, add a couple of  spoonfuls of the cooking water to the tomatoes and stir, making sure to get the amido (starch) which shows up as white froth on the surface of the water. This will thicken up the sauce.

6. Drain the pasta al dente, and add to the tomatoes. Throw in all of your cheese and mix well, adding the fresh basil at the last minute. When this has all been well mixed together, it is ready to serve.

Make sure you have a hunk of Italian bread in order to fare la scarpetta (little shoe), that is to say mop up the sauce when the pasta is gone!

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