Pasta con tapenade e sgombro
It was “Italian night” at the dining facility the other night so I picked up a vat of black olive tapenade, thinking I’d do something with it later, despite the fact that tapenade is a Provençal, not Italian dish, but why not? Surely there is some kind of Mediterranean goodness there to unpack.
I uncovered a recipe at Giallo Zafferano that somehow had all easily-obtainable ingredients — canned sgombro (mackerel), hot peppers, EVOO, garlic, white wine and parsley. As it ended up, I completely forgot a dash of frozen parsley, but with a bit of lemon zest, it was excellent anyway. As usual, high-quality Granoro spaghetti, mackerel and EVOO from the Italian PX made this dish better. If you’re dealing with pre-fab tapenade then this dish is even easier.
Put on water for the spaghetti to boil in. When it comes to a boil, liberally salt it. When it re-boils, put in your spaghetti. While this is going on you can prepare the condimento.
Heat up some EVOO in one pan, toss in a garlic clove. While that’s heating, cube your mackerel. Toss it in once the garlic is browned. (Warning: it will splatter and pop, so adjust the heat accordingly, or pull the pan off the heat when you put in the fish.) Let the mackerel brown. Add salt and black pepper as you like, don’t forget the parsley, and then a dash of wine. Let the wine cook off and then take it off the heat.
Use a separate pan to make a soffritto of EVOO and spicy pepper. Giallo Zafferano has a fresh cut one, but I have some pepper spread I made here, so I threw in a teaspoon or two of that. You could probably get away with dried red pepper, too, but those burn very easily, so attenzione.
I was tempted to do all this in one pan, but I find that small details in a lot of Italian cookery — especially the simpler dishes — matter a lot. So just resolve yourself to washing more dishes. Use a big pan, too, because you’ll mix your pasta in this.
When the pasta is almost done, drain it, toss it in the pepper/EVOO soffritto, mix in the tapenade, and once it’s well-mixed, add your mackerel soffritto. For an extra touch of civility, take out the garlic clove at this point — its work in seasoning your soffritto is done.
Mix the whole thing well. At this point you can very finely grate some lemon peel over it.
Eccola, there’s your spaghetti con tapenade e sgombro.
One word of warning — either lower the heat on the pepper/EVOO pan or work very quickly. You don’t want the pasta to get too dry or fried-seeming.
If you can read Italian, don’t miss Giallo Zafferano’s evocative write up of Provence. If you can’t, a rough translation follows:
Picturesque landscapes, sunny coasts and the blue sea: these are some of the characteristics of Provence, a land famous not only for its endless lavender fields but also for its centuries-old olive trees. We were inspired by the landscapes of this French province to compose this tasty first course.