Article first published as A Very Special Dish: Amatriciana di mare on Blogcritics.
Today, I would like to talk about a spectacular dish I had on my last two trips to Rome. This creation is a “fishy” modification of the classic Amatriciana sauce, typical of the Lazio region in Italy. Let me explain what is meant by “fishy”.
First of all, amatriciana is a very rustic and “earthy” pasta sauce, which originates from the town of Amatrice, near Rieti in Italy. It is a tomato sauce containing olive oil, onions (at least in Roman cuisine) and guanciale, which is bacon obtained from the pork’s cheeks. Very simple, very tasty.
As I said, it’s a very simple recipe: you start by chopping a big onion in half-inch bits and heat it in some olive oil in a skillet or frying pan. When golden, you add the guanciale, also cut in thin bits and allow to get the fat transparent. At this point, I usually add some red wine and, once absorbed, I put in plenty of tomato sauce (at least half a liter). Let simmer for at least an hour at low heat.
Now put a big pot full of water on the fire, cook your pasta (bucatini are the one Chosen ones) up to “just before al dente”. Drain and add to the sauce, so that the last minute of cooking is done with all suce juices. Cover with pecorino and enjoy.
OK. So we have now set up the basis for this recipe I’m going to describe now. As I said, I have been traveling to Rome recently and in both trips, I went for lunch at Pierluigi, which is known as one of the best fish restaurants in town (and was recently featured on the SAS in-flight magazine). Anyway, this restaurant has used its reputation to modify the classic Amatarciana by adding mollusks and cephalopoda to the mix to make an “amatriciana from the seas” combination.
While at the beginning the idea does not sound very bright, it becomes love at first bite. It is just awesome. Thus, it has been my mission to replicate the dish at home, one way or the other.
It recently happened that my fishmonger had cockles, mussels, octopus, calamari and venus-clams, all at the same time. Could not let that occasion go 🙂 Bought the whole lot with the only aim to make this dish. So here’s how I did it.
– 500 g rigatoni
– 200 g bacon (I know, hard to find guanciale in Denmark)
– 1 big onion
– 1 calamaro
– 1 octopus
– 1 kg mussels
– 500 g cockles
– 1 kg venus-clams
– 1 litre tomato sauce
First of all, I made sure that ALL shell animals were alive. I quickly tapped each of them on the kitchen counter and dropped them in shell-speciifc water buckets with some salt.
The ones that would close their shells would be kept, the ones that would not give any sign of movement would be discarded (better safe than sorry). Once I was sure about the health of my creatures, I steam them all (beast by beast) in my big pasta pot. Once cooked, I would filter and keep the resulting water aside. So, cooked were the clams, the cockles and the venus-clams.
Aside the water (all mixed together), aside the cooked beasts. I did remove most of them from their shells, keeping a few shelled for decoration.
At this point, get the amatriciana sauce on the fire (see above) using the bacon, onion and tomato.
Now, need to clean the calamaro and the octopus. Well, the octopus was cleaned already, so just had to cut it into bits and stripes. To clean the calamaro, just follow my previous article and no need to keep the ink 🙂 Now, cut the calamaro into small bits and put aside.
Add a tiny bit of olive oil to a frying pan and, when nicely hot, add some chilli flakes (if you want), the octopus and the calamaro. Stir a lot and cook it for a few minutes, trying to avoid overcooking, or they’ll be very chewy.
Finally, the pasta!!!! Here’s where the shells’ water comes in. In a big pot, mix the mollusk cooking water with some fresh water and bring to the boil with enough salt to taste. When boiling, cook the pasta al dente. When ready, drain it and start assembling your portions. this is what I did:
I put some pasta, amatriciana, shelled mollsusks, octopus and calamari in a frying pan with some olive oil and stirred the whole thing together in medium-high heat, until everything is nice and homogeneous. I then put that into a plate and decorated with beast-in-the-shell and served. Had no cheese, though.. my misatke.
Here are some photos I took during the prep…
This one is alive
Cooked cockles and venus-clams
Amatriciana base: onion, smoked bacon (should be guanciale, but can’t really find that here in Denmark) and olive oil.
Calamaro (before cleaning) and the calamaro/octpus base
Seafood assembly for each portion. Add the pasta and toss in the sauce pan with the amatriciana. That what it looks like.