Eating here is an experience.
Sensory and visual and full-body. Traditions and tastes and stories.
I ate at Barbara’s house on Saturday, as I usually do, and helped Maria in the kitchen. While she slapped an octopus up and down in a sizzling pan she told me that you can’t just put the octopus on the flame - if you don’t slap him around the tentacles won’t curl up and the flesh will be tough. (Does that gross you out? I’m desensitized by now to things like that.) She put the cover on the octopus and minutes later as she pulled it off, he turned an amazing bright pink. She said that if you catch a live octopus while swimming you can eat him raw on the beach, all you have to do is slap him on a really hot rock for a while and then, buon appetito!
She then got to work slicing this giant loaf of bread. "It's...really...hard...to slice!" She said laughing and sawing into this huge mound of a loaf. "But it's worth it. This is real bread. The kind of bread my parents ate."
She always makes the table look nice, even if it's just another Saturday lunch. Or Monday or Tuesday, for that matter.
From left: carrots for snacking, homemade crackers, fresh panini and taralli with almonds in them, carpaccio with arugula, fresh mozzarella, fresh ricotta, pickled peppers
Our first course was a new creation of Maria's: penne with fresh ricotta, arugula and spicy oil. It was so good, we ate in silence with our eyes closed. Mmmm.
Maria's Penne with Ricotta and Arugula
While your penne are cooking, add some of the pasta cooking liquid to a bowl of fresh ricotta. Mix until it becomes loose but not too liquidy. Drain the pasta when it's al dente and toss it with the ricotta and chopped arugula and serve immediately. Drizzle a bit of olive oil on top (we used infused peperoncino oil, but you can use regular extra-virgin and then just sprinkle some crushed red pepper on top.)