The Italian Blog : Part Two

After rolling out hangovers pounding in the midday heat from James and Robyn's wedding we rolled onto the next meal - a lovely little place called Ristorante da Cesare just north of Maratea with a tiled floor that I wanted to lift straight off the floor and into my pokey bathroom in Hackney. Any drive around this quiet piece of coastline is sublime - rugged, quiet and with views to die for. It is all overlooked by a rather foreboding statue of Jesus, which our charmingly hairy and stout hotel manager informs us is only just shy height wise of the one in Rio de Janerio.

Although the floor tiles were a massive selling point, as was the fact that the restaurant was full to the rafters with locals enjoying their Sunday lunch in the shade too.  The chef at Cesare has bloody nailed it. The simplicity of thought and presentation really let the ingredients sing, much like a bloated Pavarotti. The wonderful 100% polyester Damask tablecloths, wafted straight in from 1983, just added to the charm. The swordfish ravioli was made with slightly thicker pasta than expected but gave it a strength to hold the tasty puree inside. The squid ink linguine looked stunning and was silky, rich but quite frankly I had concerns for what it would do to my insides…

The boys laid off the booze, Charlotte and I took one for the team and consumed a whole bottle of vino della casa and giggled all the way to the double espressos. Oh the espressos. Rich, full of sweet almost burnt flavours with a thick and silky crema that had just the right consistency you needed to like your lips after each sip.

Full to the rafters with squid ink, we headed back to the Maratea marina to a charming little gelato shop where we dabbled in flavours such as fig and ricotta, Straticella and pear. The chilly, creamy ice cream was finally the only thing that shut me up and stopped my wine induced giggle fit.

After lunch, we waved a sad goodbye to Will and Charlotte as they headed back home and drove north to Albanella for a few days in a villa. I’ve visited this villa before on a gloriously relaxing family holiday. Right in the heart of mozzarella country there are buffalo everywhere and each mozzarella farm comes with its own farm shop selling La Perla d’Italia. Brits usually blister this mozarella on pizzas shoved in a fan oven. This stuff is so far removed from the rubbery, pallid balls you get in supermarkets. This stuff tastes. Mild creamy and milky.  Like with most Italian food, best served simple. There was a fig tree bursting with the ripe end of season fruit which we gathered (well Gareth gathered) from the top of a creaky ladder and we served the mozzarella ripped gently with prosciutto, figs and a good glug of local olive oil.

We were joined by our friends Oscar and Rae at the villa for bottles of prosecco, some damn fine pizza in Paestum, japes on the beach and of course a tonne of Pasta al Pomodoro cooked by me. Try and find me a finer way to end a lovely Italian holiday – lunch on the patio with friends, views and a bloody massive homemade garlic bread. Bliss.

Impressive with what you can do with a packet of pasta and so doable it will take all of 20 mins

Inspired by the Pasta al Pomodoro at Ristorante Cesare, this dish is speedy, speedy, speedy and isn’t heavy as there is no cheese or cream (sad for some I know). There are 5 ingredients. Trust me even after a bottle of vino della casa you can plonk this together.

Serves 4 to 6

1 500g packet spaghetti or linguine

250g small or cherry tomatoes chopped in half

Large bunch of basil

2 cloves of crushed garlic

Olive oil

A 500g jar of passata/ tomato sauce

Salt and pepper

1)     Put a frying pan on a medium heat add a glug of olive oil cook the garlic until soft.

2)     Meanwhile bring a pan of salted water to the boil and add the spaghetti or linguine. Cook to packet instructions.

3)     Add the tomatoes to the garlic and cook for 5 mins or until soft.

4)     Chop the basil roughly.

5)     Drain the pasta when cooked and add back to the pan (not on the heat) and add the passata to heat through.

6)     Add the tomato and garlic to the pasta and stir through with the basil.

7)     Serve in bowls. Drizzle with olive oil before serving.