RAVELLO, a gem of the Amalfi Coast – and how to make the most delicious seafood linguine!

I came to travelling later in life than most. Or perhaps I should say later in life by the standard of my generation. When my mother was in her twenties it was something quite exceptional if you travelled as far afield as Europe or the United States.

In my late twenties I left New Zealand to live in Sydney. Eighteen months later, emboldened by the success I’d made of living abroad, I decided to tackle London. What an incredible city! It had been a dream of mine since childhood to see London and how rewarding to have that dream realised. It is the city where I met my husband and the city from where you have the whole of Europe at your feet. A special place. That was when my love affair with Europe began and has never abated. In fact, I feel on some level that Europe is my spiritual home.

So of all the places I’ve visited in Europe, which is my favourite? That is a question easily answered. Italy. It is a country so richly blessed – the people, the food, the history, the architecture and just its spectacular beauty. Their whole approach to food and life resonates deeply with me.

Last year my husband and I had a week’s holiday in Italy on the way home from visiting family in the UK. We thought it would be nice to see a part of the country we hadn’t yet been to. So we chose an area in southwest Italy, specifically the Amalfi Coast and Sorrentine Peninsula – think Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi lemons, limoncello, the very swanky Capri. We chose to stay in Sorrento. It’s a great town to base yourself but there is so much more to see in this area of Italy. You mustn’t limit yourself.

The most important part of any holiday for me is the food and for this reason I have a habit of looking out places I’d like to eat weeks (dare I confess to months?) in advance of travelling. Our trip to Italy was no exception. There was a restaurant I happened across on the Internet that I added to our itinerary as a must visit. It was situated in Ravello, a small town located in the hills above Amalfi.

We had a car and decided to drive – by which I mean my husband drove. What can I say about driving on the Amalfi Coast? I’m glad it was my husband behind the wheel and not me. We got chatting to a taxi driver in Rome where we went after our time on the coast and he told us that north of Rome the driving is pretty good but south of Rome – anything goes. How we arrived in Ravello with our rental car unscathed I’ll never know. Needless to say our nerves were somewhat frazzled. We were definitely ready for lunch – and a glass of wine.

The town of Ravello was wondrous. Set high above the water, the views were breathtaking. The town itself was charming with beautiful villas and gardens and an impressive cathedral. It had the feel of a bygone error, as though it had been protected and cocooned through time, retaining its very essence of Italy. As for the restaurant – when it comes to expectations being exceeded Ristorante Confalone was a case in point.

It was situated on the upper floor of an historic hotel. Walking through the hotel was a treat in itself – mosaic-tiled floors, marble columns and vaulted ceilings. The restaurant had a stunning frescoed ceiling. We were shown to a table on the large terrace. It was a wonderful moment when we first went to stand at the balustrade. The view was vast and sweeping – you almost felt as though you had the entire Amalfi Coast within your sights.

The sky was blue with puffy clouds in the distance. There was a gentle breeze swirling the terrace. We ate creamy mozzarella and the reddest of tomatoes, perfectly cooked pasta; we drank local wine and finished with strong Italian coffee. And all the while we were able to gaze out at the breathtaking view.

I’ll never forget our lunch at Ristorante Confalone. In fact it will remain in my memory as one of the most perfect days of my life.

So if you are thinking of heading to Italy, keep the Amalfi Coast in mind. And although the likes of Positano and Amalfi are the more popular destinations, you won’t be disappointed if you make the effort to go that little bit further and put Ravello on your itinerary.


Now let’s get serious about food. Seeing as this blog is about my love affair with Italy it seemed only fitting that I should end with an Italian recipe. That is to say it’s my own creation but inspired by my travels through Italy.

I’ve specified linguine here but spaghetti works just as well and is usually easier to come by at the supermarket (I just love linguine). As for the seafood it is particularly abundant on the Amalfi Coast and the seafood dishes are something to behold. I like to keep it simple with the fish and prawns but you can add whatever seafood takes your fancy.

The recipe below is for 2-3 people although it’s simple enough to double, or triple if you want to feed more people.

 

Linguine with Seafood and Tomatoes

Serves 2-3

 

1 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

A few dried chilli flakes

1 tsp dried oregano

200ml white wine (I like to use a crisp Sauvignon Blanc)

1 400g tin chopped tomatoes

Salt and pepper, to taste

250g firm white fish, cut into 3-4cm chunks (I like to use Gurnard but any firm white fish is good here)

250g raw prawn cutlets

200g linguine

A glug of olive oil

Juice of half a lemon

A few torn basil leaves for garnish

 

  1. Bring a large pan of water to boil for the pasta. I always make this my first job. It’s one less thing to think about and the water will be ready for whenever you need it.
  1. Heat the olive oil in a pan large enough to take the seafood later and add the chopped onion. Sweat the onion until it’s soft and translucent. Add the garlic and sauté for a minute or so.
  1. Add the dried chilli flakes and oregano and stir through the onions and garlic. (When I say a few chilli flakes I mean literally a small smattering. You want the slight kick that chilli adds but you don’t want this to be hot.)
  1. Add the white wine and let it bubble and reduce for a minute or two.
  1. Add the chopped tomatoes, stir together and reduce to a simmer.
  1. Let the sauce simmer for 20-30 minutes until it has thickened and is a lovely rich colour.
  1. Add salt and pepper and taste until you’re happy. I like a lot of freshly ground black pepper but that’s a personal preference.
  1. Once you’re happy with the sauce, season your boiling water with salt and add the pasta. It usually takes about nine minutes but check the instructions on your packet. I like to rescue a strand and start checking after 7-8 minutes.
  1. Add the fish and prawns to the simmering sauce. The fish will cook very quickly – in just a few minutes. Depending on how big your prawns are they may take a tad longer so add them first if they are large. A good way to check if your fish is cooked is to prod a piece against the side of the pan. If it flakes easily and has turned opaque throughout it’s cooked. The prawns will turn a blushing pink and the meat will also be opaque once cooked. It’s important to stand at the hob here – don’t get distracted! You want to take this off the heat the minute the seafood is cooked.
  1. Drain the cooked linguine and return it to the pan. Add a glug of olive oil and the lemon juice and toss through. Now add the pasta to the tomatoes and seafood. Use a large fork and spoon to toss it all together. (This is my favourite part – with the exception of eating it, of course.)
  1. Serve in large pasta bowls garnished with freshly torn basil.

 

The wine you choose should be able to make the journey from the hob to your glass. You’ve heard it before but it really is true – if it’s not good enough to drink then it’s not good enough to go in your food. So I suggest eating this delectable pasta with a chilled glass of wine and some crusty bread to mop up the juices (has to be done).

Buon appetito!

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2 Comments

  1. Pingback: Italy’s Amalfi Coast – Pompeii and Capri (and a delicious recipe for spaghetti with Italian sausage) – Tracey O'Brien

  2. Pingback: Favourite posts of 2016 – and my love affair with Italy – Tracey O'Brien

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