All I have to say is WOW! This was by far my most enjoyable dish this year… well so far, but to be honest it will be nearly impossible to beat. I ate this dish in Vernazza, Italy, which happens to be my favourite place in the world. Vernazza is a small town part of the Cinque Terre coastline in northern Italy. Its located in the Liguria region which is famous for its basil, olive oil, pine nuts, focaccia and of course seafood!
I’ve been to Vernazza twice and I think I will have to go back there every time I visit Italy. The locals are very relaxed and welcoming even though their streets get packed with tourists everyday over summer. If you ever get the chance to visit, do what the locals do, find a place on the rocks and bath in the sun, drinking wine, swimming and watch the sun set over the mountains.
In most touristy areas around the world you’ll often find unauthentic restaurants selling typical food of the country rather than local cuisine. In a small town like Vernazza there isn’t much room for bad or unauthentic restaurants. There you’ll find about 6 restaurants all squeezed in together in the main square. You can do a walk around and see what others are eating, and within 5 minutes pick your restaurant of choice.
Being a coastal town the obvious choice is a seafood dish, Mussels with angel hair pasta and bottarga. Now many might think that bottarga (dried mullet roe) already having a fishy taste paired with mussels might be too much, but they actually make for the most delicious seafood pasta I have ever had. I didn’t get the recipe from the restaurant, but I have a pretty good idea of how it was made. From my food memory to your plate, here is the recipe for Tagliatelle with Mussels and Bottarga which I demonstrated recently at the opening of The Factoria, an amazing new Italian produce store in Wetherill Park, Sydney.
Sammy’s Tagliatelle with mussels and bottarga
- 330g of Barilla Tagliatelle egg pasta
- small hand full of rock salt
- 1 kg of live mussels
- 60ml extra virgin olive oil
- 250ml dry white wine
- 2 French onions, finely diced
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely diced
- ½ bunch flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
- 20g (2cm) bottarga
- Freshly cracked pepper
- Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil or chilli oil
- Drain live mussels in a colander. Then heat a large pot on the stove to a high heat. Add 30ml of olive oil and mussels to the pot and cook stirring for 2 minutes. Add in white wine and allow mussels to steam open while stirring occasionally. Once mussels are open drain into a colander with a bowl to catch the mussel stock. Reserve.
- Once cool enough to handle remove meat from shells and remove any beards from the mussel meat. Discard shells and beards. Finely chop ¾ of the mussel meat.
- Prepare pot for pasta by bringing about 2.5 liters of water to the boil. Once boiling add in a small handful or salt. Cook pasta for 3 ½ minutes. Reserve pasta cooking water.
- In a large fry pan gently sweat onions till soft in 30 ml olive oil. Add in chopped garlic and all mussel meat, stir for a minute then add in about 250ml of reserved mussel stock. Bring to a simmer.
- Add cooked pasta to the fry pan and gently cook for another minute stirring all the ingredients together. If the pasta is a bit dry add in a little pasta water as needed. Finish with chopped parsley, stir through and serve.
- Finely grate over bottarga and finish with a drizzle of olive oil and cracked pepper.