mercoledì 28 ottobre 2009

"Pasta c'anciova". Pasta with anchovy and tomato extract

There is a first dish among the most important in the cuisine of Palermo, one of the most typical for its special taste that blends the sweet and salty.This dish was born, perhaps, as an alternative to the most famous pasta with sardines, whose preparation was, however, limited to the period when it could easily find fresh sardines and fennel of mountain, the beginning of spring.

Of course now we can cook this pasta in all seasons, thanks to the freezers that allow to freeze and thaw the necessary ingredients all year, although the flavor of fennel freshly picked remains unsurpassed.
But until some years ago there were no freezers, and so making pasta with sardines, in its original form, was limited to the spring season.
Another factor not to underestimate was the cost quite high of the saffron, that not everyone could afford, and it is perhaps for these reasons that people of Palermo invented a new dish that looked very tasty like the more famous original, reinventing a similar taste, sweet and salty, with the presence of fish and where the yellow saffron was replaced by the tomato extract.So is a sort of sister of the pasta with sardines, but with ingredients still poorer and always available, because are "not fresh", but "products of conservation" and therefore always present and especially also easily transportable.

Some sources say that "pasta c'anciova", was invented by the emigrants, that brought with them a big number of products from their homeland which then transported in the cold North not to forget the taste of Sicily. Some people infact give to this dish the name "milanisa pasta", a pasta completely Sicilian, but invented in Milan.

Another hypothesis is that this pasta was invented by the laborers, who could easily prepare this pasta during breaks of their hard work, because the ingredients could be easily transported and the preparation was quite rapid.

The "pasta c'anciova" is very good, in Palermo to cook this dish is used exclusively the format "margherita" that collects the sauce deliciously.

The basic ingredients are tomato extract, which in summer is prepared in all the houses in the countryside by putting under the sun the tomato pulp to dry for several days, obtaining a concentrate tomato very tasty.

I remember the characteristic odor emanated from the tomato under the sun, a bit sour, pungent, very intense, a smell so to say "family", "ancestral", one of those smells that breaths during childhood and never more you can forget it, because it becomes part of you, as a sort of genetic background of olfactory memories.
Another ingredient, the anchovy under oil or under salt, then raisins, garlic or onion, and pine nuts (for their antibacterial function) and the "muddica atturrata" (toasted bread crumbs) .

The combination is truly unbeatable!

Ingredients: 400 gr pasta margherita, half onion, a clove of garlic, some anchovies in oil, 200 grams of tomato extract (you can also use the concentrate in cans), 100 grams of bread crumbs, a handful of raisins and pine nuts, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.

Preparation: Chop finely the onion and sautè with oil. As soon as is ready join a garlic clove and the anchovy fillets (thornless and rinsed) and continue to sauté. Add the tomato extract and a bit of hot water (one or two cups), add the raisins and pine nuts. Cook for about fifteen minutes until the sauce is fairly thick.

Apart prepare the “muddica atturrata”: put in a small frying pan a little oil (someone adds anchovies, but it would be an exaggeration), breadcrumbs, salt and pepper. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon, until it reaches an amber color.

When everything is ready, it's already time to cook the pasta in water with salt, drain, put again in the pan with the sauce, divide the plates, sprinkle each plate of pasta with plenty of bread crumbs and finally re-add the sauce.
A small note, someone prepares this sauce without onion, only with the garlic, others only with onion. I prefer to use them both the ingredients and the result is excellent. Some people use anchovy paste, but is good only in times of emergency. For those who did not have extract of tomatos "homemade", can substitute it with tomato paste available in all supermarkets, taste is slightly different, less intense, but still pleasant.

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