“You may have the universe if I may have Italy.” – Giuseppe Verdi
Though my travels in Italy are at this point limited to a mere two weeks, many years ago, I’m of the same mind. Give me Italy; you may have all the rest. Simon and I visited six years ago and some of those memories are more vivid than moments since. Anything can trigger them; a song, a scent, an image. Then everything comes surging back to the surface. I ache for Italy.
I remember with perfect clarity:
The first time we came upon the Pantheon in all its tremendous (former) pagan glory. Crowded cobblestone streets that fanned out like veins, offering a welcome series of “we’re lost” adventures. Ornate and breathtaking churches seemingly lining every street. The fog rolling over the murky aqua Venetian canals, lined with their lovely crumbling palazzos. Jovial bursts of Italian conversations, shouting, laughter.
I remember getting caught in a downpour outside of the Palazzo Pitti in Florence. Getting lost at every turn in Venice and enjoying every second of it. Having a panic attack when we got lost in the not so picturesque industrial area of Florence. Ducking into countless cafes to buy espresso and seek refuge from the lingering chill of winter. Speaking bad quickly memorized Italian phrases (determined to be a good tourist) and being met with laughter and smiles. And of course, I remember with a particular longing, the food. The Food! Ah, caro…take me back please.
I had my first Carbonara experience in a noisy local hangout in Rome. Creamy, decadent, salty, divine. Paired with the house-made fragolino—I was in heaven. I made it my mission to eat ribollita all over Florence. It was also in the birthplace of the Renaissance that I had ravioli stuffed with potatoes in a butter, sage, and cheese sauce. I’ll give you a moment to let that sink in… That dish was a masterpiece the Medici would have gladly commissioned. Pasta was consumed every single day! We ate our fill of simple but divine sandwiches in every city; fresh baked bread stuffed with roasted pork or spicy salami and prosciutto, fresh basil, and cheese.
And while we didn’t make our way down to Napoli, we ate plenty of pizza. Nearly everywhere we went, we ordered the same thing. Pizza Diavola, the Devil’s Pizza or Deviled Pizza. A simple fresh tomato sauce, mozzarella, basil, Calabrese salami, chilies, and sometimes a spicy sausage. We ordered it everywhere to compare notes we told ourselves. But really, it was so good we just couldn’t bear passing it up if it was on the menu!
Today I bring you a dish inspired by Italy and our favorite pizza. Pasta Diavola. Most of the same ingredients but in pasta form. I modeled this dish after a version of the pie located here in The Valley. Midici pizza serves up traditional Neapolitan style pizzas from a wood-fired ovens and it’s the closest thing to Italian pizza Simon I have found at home. This is by no means sponsored btw; we just love their pizza. If you ever get the chance, check it out.
For this pasta I bought good quality imported Italian noodles…still haven’t mastered making them fresh. I used San Marzano tomatoes for the sauce…which unlike most of my sauces I didn’t cook as long. I wanted to give the pasta that same acidic, raw bite you get from traditional Neapolitan pizza sauce. I used a spicy Italian sausage along with some Calabrese salami. For that fiery Diavola heat I added crushed Calabrian chilies…they are hard to find but amazing! I bought mine at Williams Sonoma. Again, not sponsored, just obsessed. Instead of Mozzarella I used buratta…because…I mean have you ever had burrata? Then I served it all with more chilies and lots of fresh basil.
Delicious. Comforting. Spicy as hell and filled with fond memories.
What are some of your favorite travel memories? What is one dish you’ve had while globetrotting that you can’t get out of your head? Comment below!
- 1 lb. pasta noodles cooked, with ¼ cup pasta liquid reserved
- 1 Tbsp. Olive oil
- 5 oz. Calabrese salami, diced
- 1 cup diced white onion
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 lb. spicy Italian sausage
- 1 Tbsp. chopped Calabrian chilies, plus more for serving*
- 1 28 oz. can crushed San Marzano tomatoes
- 2 tsp. sugar
- Salt and pepper
- 8 oz. Burrata
*These are fiery chilies with tons of flavor. Use less if you don’t like a lot of heat!
- Prepare pasta according to package instructions. Reserve ¼ cup of the pasta water.
- In a large pan heat olive oil over medium heat. Add in salami and crisp in the pan for 2-3 minutes.
- Remove salami with a slotted spoon and set aside. You can add in more oil if necessary but I found the oil from the salami was sufficient.
- Next add onions and garlic to the pan and sauté for 3-4 minutes.
- Add in sausage, remove from casing and break apart with a wooden spoon.
- Continue to break apart sausage in small chunks, browning until cooked through.
- Next add in Calabrian chilies, pasta water, and tomatoes.
- Season with salt and pepper and sugar.
- Reduce heat and cover, simmering for about 10-15 minutes. You want the flavors to come together but you still want a slight raw tomato taste to the sauce. Of course if you prefer you could let this cook longer but we are going for a bit of that fresh pizza sauce vibe!
- Add cooked pasta to the sauce and toss to combine. If you are like me you didn’t time the pasta and sauce well and might want to give your noodles a quick rinse before adding to the sauce. I know, it’s sacrilegious in Italian cooking, but what can I say? I still have trouble with timing!
- Serve family style in a large dish. Top with the reserved salami, tons of fresh basil and torn chunks of burrata. For the fire-loving folks at your table have the Calabrian chilies close at hand!