Secret Charming Fountain: Amalfi

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Secret Charming Fountain in Amalfi

Did you say it’s time to go to the Amalfi Coast? Hang on, let me get my hat!

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Amalfi Coast

 

There is NOTHING like the Amalfi Coast. Beautiful towns balancing on dramatic cliffs, food from the sea, abundance of lemons, bougainvillea spilling everywhere, and the welcoming, warm citizens of Campania. NOTHING like it.

The jewel, and title town of the Coast, is Amalfi.

Amalfi street

Amalfi

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Amalfi

It’s a small town, lusciously sprawling down a long, lovely main street, which leads from the beach, past the cathedral, to the teetering white-washed inviting architecture. Every step of the way you find beauty, culture, restaurants, coffee bars, and shops.

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Amalfi

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Amalfi

view from Amalfi Cathedral

Amalfi

Keep walking deep into the town, toward the end of the main street — till you think: “well, I guess that was the last shop” — that’s when you’ll find the secret charming fountain. It’s originally meant to represent a nativity scene, but over the years, there seems to have been many added figures. Hills & cliffs, with tableaux of shepherds, and sweethearts, craftspeople, working people, and beautiful maidens.

It’s also a drinking fountain open to the public for free refreshment. Take a sip. Hang out and make friends with all the little people (and sheep), read the stories they tell & take home an extraordinary experience.

And then (why not?) stop into a cafe for some prosciutto & melon. (Soooo good!)

1 prosciutto and melon Amalfi 2

prosciutto & melon in Amalfi

Dreaming of Amalfi – Lemon Ravioli

Amalfi paining by Chef Paulette

Amalfi paining by Chef Paulette

I just finished this painting of a view of Amalfi. When I’m deep in a painting of a beautiful Italian scene I feel myself in that place. I can even smell the air. Feel the sea breeze. My palate gets nostalgic, too. So I’m remembering the lemony ravioli we had on our last trip to Amalfi in 2014. It was at a restaurant in Maiori. A place right on the beach.

lemon ravioli in cream sauce at a restaurant in Maiori

lemon ravioli in cream sauce at a restaurant in Maiori

Lemons are huge in Amalfi and grow everywhere. The cuisine is filled with lemons, too (this where limoncello comes from).

Amalfi lemon

Amalfi lemon

This ravioli lemon-filled dish was so spectacular I figured out how to make it and we’ve cooked in class several times.

lemon ravioli-making in class

lemon ravioli-making in class

Try this immersion into lemon love. Ravioli with lemon-scented ricotta filling and a very lemony cream sauce.

Lemony-Ricotta Stuffed Ravioli w Lemon-Cream Sauce

For the dough:

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra

¼ teaspoon salt

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

For the filling:

1 lb. ricotta

½ cup grated cheese

zest of 3 lemons

salt & pepper to taste

For the Sauce:

2 lemons

½ stick unsalted butter (4 tablespoons)

1 cup dry white wine

2/3 cup cream

salt & pepper to taste

1/2 cup grated cheese

Make the dough: Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl, and shape into a mound. Create a “well” in the mound and add the eggs. Using a fork slowly mix the flour into the egg, until the dough comes together and most or all the flour is mixed in. Gather the dough and knead it on a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth, shape into a ball and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest for 30 minutes.

Make the filling: Mix the ricotta, grated cheese, and lemon zest. Combine well. Season with salt & pepper.

Make the ravioli: Cut the dough into four pieces. Work with one piece at a time and keep the other pieces covered in plastic wrap. Flatten the dough into a rough rectangle, and roll through the pasta machine, changing the numbers from thick to thinner (lower to higher) one at a time until you reach the next-to-the-last number on the machine. Dust the sheet with flour in between every couple of numbers to keep it from sticking in the machine.

Lay the sheet on a table. Place scant ½-teaspoons of filling in row on the bottom half of the sheet, about an inch apart. Fold the top half over the bottom half. Press all the edges closed to seal well. Cut in between to make the individual ravioli. Place the finished ravioli on a flour-dusted sheet and repeat with the rest of the dough.

Make the Sauce: Zest the 2 lemons. Then quarter each lemon, cut off the peel entirely and minced the lemon pulp, discarding any seeds. Melt the butter in a medium sauté pan. Add the zest and pulp. Heat till hot. Add the wine. Cook until simmering. Add the cream. Stir to combine. Cook on medium low heat until cream is bubbling and slightly reduced. Season with salt & pepper.

Cook the ravioli: Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Salt water. Drop in the ravioli and cook until al dente, about 3 minutes. Spoon half of the sauce into a large shallow serving bowl. Add a few small spoonfuls  of pasta water to dilute sauce a bit. Add ravioli, top with more sauce and gently coat. Serve with some grated cheese.

What Makes This Water So Crazy?

The Aisle of Capri

The Aisle of Capri

Acqua Pazza. Translation: Crazy Water.  It’s the name of an Italian fish dish. As in Pesce all’Acqua Pazza. I’d heard of it for years, read recipes, but never cooked or ate it until my traveling group to the Amalfi Coast cooked it up at a local class in Ravello.

Cooking Class in Ravello at Hotel Villa Maria

Cooking Class in Ravello at Hotel Villa Maria

We used branzino in our cooking class at Hotel Villa Maria in Ravello. Fresh as fresh could be. Filleting the whole fish just before slipping it into the flavorful crazy water.

Our chef explaining the fish filleting process

Our chef explaining the fine points of fish filleting to me

 

I was intrigued through the cooking process and then majorly hooked from the first bite.

Crazy Water in Ravello

Crazy Water in Ravello

Fish in Crazy Water in Ravello

Fish in Crazy Water in Ravello

I had always thought the dish originated in the Veneto because Marcella Hazan seems to be the first Italian cook/chef to introduce it to the US (she lived in Venezia). But it’s really from Campania, and apparently became a very popular dish on the aisle of Capri in the 1960’s.

Story goes that fishermen used sea water with tomatoes and garlic to make a broth for cooking fish. Sounds crazy, no? Maybe cooking with sea water is. But the recipe that evolved from the idea is nicely seasoned fresh water.

At home I use cod or tilapia. But I think any firm fish would work perfectly.

Here’s how to make it for 4-6 medium-sized fish fillets:

In a deep large sauté pan add:

3-4 ripe tomatoes that have been cut into bite-sized chunks

3-4 garlic cloves, peeled & minced or rough-chopped

healthy handful of flat Italian parsley, rough-chopped

healthy pinch of hot pepper, i.e. red pepper flakes or aleppo

3-4 cups water

1/4 cup olive oil or more

Season mixture with salt & pepper. Bring to a boil, then let simmer, partially covered for about an hour. Let the water reduce a bit in the process. I add some lemon juice and lemon zest (from one small-medium lemon), but that’s not in the traditional recipe. I just like lemon!

When the crazy water has simmered and reduced a bit, the ingredients will blend into a beautiful taste and color. Season your fish fillets with salt and pepper, slip them into the broth, cover the pan and let them simmer gently till cooked through — about 10-15 minutes. Done!

Serve in medium (pasta) bowls: a fillet, a couple of ladles of chunky broth, and a slice or two of toasted/or warm/or crunchy bread (I use baguette).

So easy. So healthful. So tasty. And not crazy at all.

Fish in Crazy Water at Home (Tilapia)

Fish in Crazy Water at Home (Tilapia)

Amalfi Coast. Yes. Paradise. Just got back!

Chef Paulette in Campania

Chef Paulette in Campania

Me and a few wonderful ladies from Nashville took a trip to Italy’s Amalfi Coast a couple of weeks ago. The beauty of the region fills your eyes, heart and soul at every turn. And the food entrances your palate with every and any bite. Can I go back now? PLEASE?

Here are a few images from the trip. More to come. And, of course, recipes & stories. Stay tuned!

Positano

Positano

Ravello

Ravello

Maiori

Maiori