There is one thing that I love of Italian culture: the appreciation of the beauty of sitting at home with friends, around the table. Eating well, drinking well and having a great time.
We are trained like this starting from a very young age. The pizza night with schoolmates and teachers is an highlight from age 6!
Growing up, this doesn’t change. In my university years I can recall endless nights at somebody’s home, 8-10 friends, a few bottles of wine, and again there she is: pasta, a lot of pasta.
What made this tradition even more exciting is that almost each member of the group would come from a different region of Italy, with different recipes and flavours and a box of typical ingredients just arrived from their town where the parents carefully packed all that could fit and shipped to the cold and grim Milan.
As you can imagine, these nights have been a fantastic opportunity to taste and get to know Italian culinary tradition and history.
One of these nights the dinner was hosted at Valentino’s apartment, a dear friend from Basilicata. Basilicata is a very small region in the south of Italy, and as many southern regions, they really like spicy food! I remember Valentino recently came back from visiting his parents home, and brought back with him a deep red jar… Pure, delicious and insanely hot chili pepper cream in extra virgin olive oil, handmade by his grandma.
This is what we made with it:
We sliced an onion and let it brown gently on a pan with a bit of olive oil.
We dicedÂ a gorgeous artisan sausage, also part of what my friend brought back from home, and added it to the pan.
When the sausage was cooked, we added less than a teaspoon of his secret chilli pepper paste, a bunch of cherry tomatoes and 2 or 3 fresh basil leaves, mixed in some spaghetti and enjoyed one of the most incredibly spicy dishes I’ve ever had in my life.
But we had red wine and a guitar, nobody seemed to notice the burning throat!