Ahh, Italy – my gratitude extends to the whole nation. Great wines, great fashion (somewhat lost on me I admit), beautiful scenery, enthusiastic gesticulation and unobtainable supercars – the sort of things that makes one glad to be alive. Of course, if that wasn’t enough then there’s the food which, you may have realised, is where I was going with this intro.
Over the years the Italians have worked their magic to combine the most simple of ingredients into something far greater than the sum of their parts.
Here’s an example: wood fired oven margarita pizza. Bread, cheese and tomatoes, all cooked in a brick oven burning timber as we have for hundred of years. No sous vide, fan assist or thermostats and yet it is delicious and so, so much better for it for some reason. Witchcraft I tell you.
Here’s another, and the ultimate for me – pasta. On its own, it’s simple enough being just flour and water, or flour and egg, but with a few equally simple ingredients you have a dish for anyone. Even the most modest pasta dish has a kind of chic sophistication about it (again, a little lost on me), in fact the simpler the better.
Despite the ‘bean popping’ this sort of dish is one of my ‘late from the office’ go-to meals which is a shame, as it doesn’t deserve to be. It’s everything I love about Italian food. I know there are plenty of ‘rules’ or conventions in Italy on the choice of pasta shapes and accompaniments, but this worked just fine for me.
I’ve written a recipe, but honestly I wouldn’t expect many to follow it. In fact, most of the quantities in this one are approximate – this isn’t an exact science. Think of it more as a ‘serving suggestion’. Lovely with a good Pinot Grigio by the way.
- 150-200g orecchiette pasta, depending how hungry you are
- 2 tbsp cooking olive oil
- About 1 tbsp good extra virgin olive oil to serve
- 10-15 large raw prawns, deveined if necessary
- 1 garlic glove, finely chopped
- A small glass of wine (and a large one for yourself, it’s been a long day)
- About 200g broad beans
- 1 spring onion, finely sliced
- A good pinch of chilli flakes
- About a tablespoon measure of butter
- Salt & Pepper.
Boil the kettle and get the water on.
Blanch the beans for a few minutes. I used the water for the pasta to save on pans, just don’t salt it yet. Sieve them out when done, salt the water and then and cook the pasta as instructed.
De-skin the beans by squeezing one end. Discard the skins. Keep the beans to one side.
In the pan, gently fry the garlic and prawns with a pinch of salt and the chilli flakes until well coloured. Add the wine and rapidly reduce to half the volume. Put in the beans, spring onion and the butter and warm through. Taste and season as needed.
Drain the pasta when just ready and mix in the prawns and beans and a good lug of the olive oil. Serve with a twist of black pepper.