Food & Drink

Lots of cooks in Naples' kitchen

“When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie” – oh, wait. We didn't even discuss pizza in our study of Campania.

In fact, the cuisine we prepared was quite different from what I had imagined.

Putting my ignorance and preconceived notions aside and embracing the culinary offerings of chef Antonio Tubelli turned out to be fun, tasty and enlightening.

The cuisine of Campania is infused with international influences and offers pleasures far beyond well-known things such as pizza, buffalo mozzarella and San Marzano tomatoes, all of which I consume liberally and with glee.

It was interesting that the chef used the word “contamination” to describe the influences of other cultures. From my American point of view, I asked the chef if he meant the cuisine had been polluted.

He said he was not using the word in a negative context, but as a way to describe centuries of contact with diverse people and cultures.

Naples, the capital city, was founded by the Greeks and means “new city.” Naples was on the Via Appia, the great Roman road, and connected Rome to Brindisi and across the Adriatic and Ionian seas to Greece.

Following the fall of Rome, Naples came under Arab, Norman, Swabian, French, Spanish and Austrian rule, all influencing the culture, food and eating habits.

Traditionally, the lower classes primarily ate fruits and vegetables and were known as “leaf eaters.” Later, when pasta became common, this same class came to be known as “pasta eaters.”

This week, we'll focus on the pasta eaters with Paccheri alla Genovese.

Despite the name, the dish isn't from Genoa. It evolved in the port area of Naples, where many workers came from Genoa.

Since the recipe is based on a long slow cooking of onions and meat, the flavors remind me of a rich French onion soup.

You can make it now or save it for winter.