How To Make Traditional Ragu

One of the cool things I was able to witness was a professional chef make a traditional Italian dish for a wedding. Now, the way people prepare a meal here seems to be different from the States. Here, you will add different ingredients until you decide it’s enough. Where in the States, you follow a recipe to the exact measurements. Don’t get confused, these recipes do have some measurements, but they are more like a suggestion and you decide what you would like to do instead.

A Guide to Conca dei Marini

 

If you ask any Neapolitan about Conca dei Marini, they will enthusiastically tell you that the sfogliatella pastry was invented there.  Like many pastries of the middle ages, cloistered nuns invented the sfogliatella.  It seems that while the cloistered men made alcoholic tinctures to maintain their independent cash flow, their sisters of the cloth were busy making sweet treats.  And so was the case of the sfogliatella.  The Santa Rosa Convent soaring above the tiny port of Conca dei Marini is where the ricotta stuffed and amarena cherry studded shell shaped pastry was born. 

Calamari e Piselli (Squid & Peas)

am pretty sure that Pescheria Azurra lets everyone pay with a credit card now, but what do I know.  

With the spring reticently rolling around, the iconic preparation of braised squid and peas is a Neapolitan tradition.  I make this recipe just as the fresh peas appear at Pignasecca and I use medium sized adult squid.  In Naples we enjoy squid on Fridays because we still eschew meat for borderline spiritual, mostly superstitious reasons that day. You do you!

A Guide to Furore

Furore is perhaps the most logic defying of any town on the Amalfi Coast. It is a vertical sliver of land that runs from the deep crevice of the Fiordo port on the sea to about 600 meters above sea level high into the Monti Lattari Mountains.  There is no central piazza.  No easy road to connect lower and upper Furore.  The people of Furore even have split identities with those in the upper quarters more closely identifying with the mountain dwellers of Agerola and the lower quarters more historically linked to the mariners of nearby Conca dei Marini.

A Guide to Praiano

Praiano gets her name from the Latin word pelagium, meaning open sea.  Later the same word would evolve to mean beach in both Spanish (playa) and Portuguese (praia). Praiano consists of two main parts. Vettica Maggiore which lies lower on the coast and Praino on the upper part of this vertical town.  The main road SS 163 Amalfitana slices through the two neighborhoods.   Nobles throughout the days of the Amalfi Republic summered here and today you can affordably rent family villas in Praiano with dazzling sea views.  

Positano defies gravity. Pastel buildings hang like tendrils dipping over the sea. Mosaic church domes are wedged between cliffs. Old ladies with in matching house dresses and droopy nylons trudge up countless stairs.  The town is vertical, funneling from a long, winding strip of coast into the hills.  The highest neighborhood of Positano is Montepertuso, meaning Mount Hole in local dialect.  As the legend goes, villagers attempting to escape marauders scampered into the hills above town only to become blocked by an imposing rock formation.  They prayed to the Virgin Mary and so she ventured down from the heavens and parted the rocks, allowing the early Positanese to pass through safely.  The hole in this rock formation is said to resemble the Madonna (I think it looks like an rather beaky eagle) and would give Montepertuso its name. 

The Towns of the Amalfi Coast

The Amalfi Coast offers some of the most striking panoramic vistas in the world.  I like to call it suffocatingly beautiful because everywhere you look, every jagged cliff, every bougainvillea encrusted villa, every secret stone tipping into the sea is simply more beautiful than the last thing you saw not just that day but in your life.  Driving down the Amalfi Coast is the pastel panoramic equivalent of gavaging yourself with shrooms at Woodstock.  You just do not, cannot believe that what you are seeing is real.  The good news is that it most definitely is. 

A Guide to the Amalfi Coast and Beyond

Most of the visitors to our little region of Italy, technically referred to as the Region of Campania, blow through Naples on their way to the Amalfi Coast.  The Region of Campania actually consists of five provinces Naples, Salerno, Avellino, Caserta and Benevento.  The Amalfi Coast is in the Province of Salerno.  The Gulf of Sorrento and Capri are in the Province of Naples.  It is important to remember that culturally, historically, geographically and even linguistically and culinarily the Amalfi Coast and the Gulf of Sorrento are two distinct regions.  Many like to think of Sorrento as the gateway to the Amalfi Coast.  Fair enough, it is certainly a convenient and less expensive place to stay and use as a home base when exploring the towns of the Amalfi Coast. 

Top Ten Trattorias of Naples

Trattoria, osteria, ristorante….. where to start?  And more importantly what is the difference?  A trattoria, like an osteria, serves simple, rustic food.  Unlike a ristorante, a trattoria features a limited menu, often scrawled on a chalkboard or haphazardly scribbled on A4 paper and photocopied. But thoughtless, trattorias are not.  These are establishments of cucina povera and if you hope to eat like a local while in Italy and do not happen to have an Italian nonna, then this where you want to spend you feeding time.  Naples particularly has some of the best trattorias of Italy.  Waves of tourism that have radically changed the restaurant industry in the rest of Italy (and not in a good way), have left Naples relatively untouched (for now).  It is still possible to sit at a communal table, eat a hearty plate of pasta and enjoy a carafe of local wine for 10 euros.  Below are Sauced & Found’s favorite trattorias in Bella Napoli. Some of these places have weird hours so always check hours first!

The Foods of Ferrante

The international press has been obsessed with Elena Ferrante in ways the local Neapolitan press never have been. Some people think they have unveiled her true identity.  Some people think she is a man.  Many people love the books.  Most Neapolitans have either never read them or vehemently despise them.  The reason for this is varied- just as the town of Naples is varied- something that gets lost in the books themselves.  Neapolitans almost unanimously agree that Ferrante writes like someone who has left Naples- particularly the brutal post-war periphery of Naples that was as chauvinist as it was bleak.  There is no subtlety or dimension to this portrait of Naples.  It is simply a place of violence that one must silently endure or boldly escape.

A Christmas Walking Tour of Naples

We can’t all spend Christmas in the best city in the world- and by that I mean Naples.  Naples at Christmas is baroque. It is sensual.  It smells like salted cod and tastes like cinnamon and almonds. The intricate nativity scenes for which Naples is famous may not accurately depict the birth of Jesus (pretty sure the magi were not there on the same night JC gasped his first breath) but they most assuredly capture the spirit of everyday life in Naples.  In fact if you are in New York, you can visit a Neapolitan nativity at the Met this year. But if you are in Naples or feel like imagining you are, follow this simple Christmas walking guide, to experience the frenetic energy that is Napoli at Christmas.  Follow the Sauced & Found google map above to stay on course.

A Guide to Christmas Fish in Naples

Christmas Eve is a fish lovers dream across the South of Italy.  In the days leading up to the holiday, fish markets across Naples work over time to keep up with demand.  There are many nouveau preparations of old favorites.  But classics are classics for a reason.  Below is a by no means exhaustive guide to Neapolitan Christmas fish and their simple preparations!

The Advent in Naples

Italy is ostensibly Catholic.  We check liturgical calendars before leaving the house to determine what saint day it is and whether we need to wish a friend a congratulatory ‘auguri’ on any given day. Everyday is someone’s saint day after all, and some people even get to have more than one. Each day has a saint and each saint has a sweet.  And while one can quibble as to how devout your average Italian is, the Advent season is without a doubt nationally celebrated occasion.  But what is the Advent and what does it mean to the everyday Italian?

How to Cook Pasta

I did not know the first thing about making pasta.  In the not so distant past, I often boiled pasta to oblivion and then left it in the cooling water before draining it in a colander because I was simply too busy doing something else- something important like watching Netflix or reading US Weekly magazine.  Many often think of pasta as a kind of last resort meal alternative to ordering take-out.  Boil water, throw in pasta and then throw whatever is in fridge together and eat- preferably standing up while simultaneously clicking away on phone, watching Netflix and posting solipsistic photos on Instagram.  Pasta really can be that easy to make.  And it definitely is a viable and potentially healthful alternative to freebasing Uber Eats.  It also can be incredibly elegant and infinitely more satisfying when following a few essential chronological cooking tips towards making the perfect plate of pasta. 

Five Christmas Traditions in Naples

 The holiday season is a magical time in Southern Italy.  Confectionaries and nativity scenes beseech even the grinches among us to join in all the merriment.  At the very least we don’t have to listen to Grandma Got Ran Over By a Reindeer and Feliz Navidad no less than 2,000 times until the Rose Bowl.  Although in Italy you can also expect to here John Lennon belting And So Merry Christmas in the middle of July.  In honor of the holiday season, below are five indispensible Neapolitan Christmas traditions. If you can’t make it here for Christmas, you can think of us as you enjoy another slog of Eggnog-which by the way- try explaining that one to the average Neapolitan!

Top Five Gelaterias in Napoli

 

While the sfogliatella pastry and pastiera pie may be the undisputed kings of Neapolitan dolce, gelato will always remaining an admirable favorite.  With warm weather still going strong as we launch into fall, the gelato shops of Napoli remain humming with activity.  And what better way to spend a Neapolitan Sunday afternoon than with a constitutional stroll with a constitutional cone in hand.  Below are Sauced & Found’s selections for the top five gelaterias in Napoli. 

A Guide to Limoncello !

It’s a calm summer night on a terrace overlooking the Gulf of Sorrento.  You have eaten a lot—too much really.  Bruschetta, smoked provolone, oregano studded olives, bubbling eggplant parmesan, Gragnano pasta shells stuffed with salted cod and wild parsley and baked to a crisp gratin. Those were only the first two courses.  The main course of Branzino stewed acqua pazza style in Vesuvian tomatoes and garlic puts you over the edge.  Then dessert arrives- a crostata of plump boozy apricots and vibrant mint leaves.  You are stuffed, finished, finito- but somehow your stomach defies its limits and the laws of gravity.  You eat that sublime slice of tart. Just as you are wishing you wore those stretchy pants, out of the corner of your eye you spot a tray approaching. Chilled ceramic glasses and a bottle of electric yellow nectar materialize. Dinner is not over yet.  The digestive has arrived. And it is limoncello. 

Top Ten Pizzerias in Naples

Let’s get one thing straight ragazzi- pizza is just one of the MANY iconic dishes that Naples offers. Still no trip to Bella Napoli is complete without it.  The original Neapolitan pizzas are the simple Marinara of San Marzano tomato sauce, oregano and garlic or the Margherita of tomato sauce, mozzarella or fiori di latte cheese and basil.  The secret to enjoying a good pizza is to keep it simple.  And for the love of God, don’t drive the pizzaioli of Naples crazy by trying to customize your f*cking order.  Order what is one the menu and basta!

Top Five Thermal Spas of Ischia

Since when the Greeks arrived on Ischia about 3,000 years ago, the Island has been highly prized for her volcanic waters.  The Romans created thermal baths in grottos here cleverly pumping bubbling naturally hot water into cavernous rock saunas.  After both world wars, veterans came to Ischia seeking rest and relaxation.  Today, the island’s famous thermal baths feature fresh and saltwater pools as well as water and mud treatments of every type imaginable.  That is not to mention access to the best water therapy there is- the beach! Below you will find my top five thermal parks on Ischia.