“CI FACCIAMO DUE SPAGHETTI”
Italians love pasta. They eat it every day. It’s economical, practical and can be whipped up at the drop of a hat. It’s also a great dish to be shared socially as an additional plate can always be filled, thus allowing liberal opportunity for the impromptu dinner invitation.
“Let’s make some spaghetti,” or “Let’s have some pasta.” Although the literal translation of “Ci facciamo due spaghetti,” would seem to indicate the preparation of two strands of spaghetti, anyone who has ever had an Italian meal knows that not only would this be impossible, but anything other than an abundant plate of pasta would be totally incomprehensible. Consequently, such an invitation amongst friends is sure to mean a homey plate of pasta dressed with a favorite sauce.
Boiling water is easy and the sauce can be as simple or as intricate as one likes – hot, cold (on occasion), heavy or light, with vegetables, meat or both. Italians eat pasta every day. They never bore of it. Pasta is a fact of life.
AN IMPROMPTU DINNER INVITATION IN ITALY
On a recent visit to Calabria I rented a lovely studio apartment from Lucia of Villa Anna. No stranger to the hospitality business, she grew up in the atmosphere of her family’s former hotel Albergo Esperia on Reggio’s main street. The apartment’s sturdy, Italian-made stoneware even bore the bygone establishment’s insignia of the city’s landmark Aragon castle. This connection to the past didn’t belie the up-to-date accommodations, rather it provided a solid grounding and a thread of continuity in a region plagued with a mobility of the young and talented forced to move northward or abroad for work.
Lucia is kind, friendly and she keeps an impeccably clean establishment. And as is often the case, she is surrounded by family. Thus, her accommodations are safely tucked away in a compound full of close relatives and surrounded by greenery. Her boyfriend Eugenio is a frequent visitor. He’s endowed with an unbridled energy and abundant good humor. Eugenio loves to cook and he’s always ready with a genial dinner invitation – spur of the moment, what’s in the pantry?
“Some pasta” sounds simple – a light meal, nothing fancy, but then your host peers in the fridge, opens up the cupboard, and the bustle of activity begins. Oh my, we happen to have this 5-pound hunk of mortadella so-and-so just brought us straight from Bologna. I’ve never been a big fan of bologna, but bologna from Bologna, well that’s another story!
Eugenio proceeds to cut it into cubes, gets some toothpicks out and pours some very decent, bulk, local red wine into casual glasses.
What do you know? There’s also a 5-foot long sausage in the fridge and some broccoli Lucia happened to pick up earlier in the day. Turn on the burners and get that water boiling for the pasta while we sample the mortadella along with some fresh mozzarella that just appeared on a plate.
The “due spaghetti”? Well, what does every good Italian have handy for a quick meal? Aglio (garlic), olio (oil), and if a fan of the piquant, peperoncino (hot chili peppers)! And seeing as Calabria is known for both the cultivation and consumption of the peperoncino, “aglio, olio, peperoncino” was il sugo (the sauce) with which we would condire (dress) our pasta that evening. It would only be a matter of sautéing the sliced garlic and peperoncino in oil for a few minutes, tossing in the cooked spaghetti and voilà!
The impromptu dinner invitation turned into a tasty 3-course meal that was swiftly and effortlessly prepared and leisurely enjoyed (grazie a Eugenio, Lucia e la sua famiglia).
Lots more about Calabria, its people and cuisine in Calabria: The Other Italy, my non-fiction book about daily life, history, culture, art, food and society in this beautiful region in the toe of the boot. Available in paperback and electronic versions.
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