Quite near where I live, there’s a place where you can go to eat around lunch time. I deliberately avoid calling it a restaurant, because it doesn’t really feel like a restaurant. It’s more like a sort of really big living room where you pay to eat. It’s a casual and noisy kind of place. The menus are handwritten daily and reproduced with a photocopier, your bill is scribbled on a piece of paper, the wee baskets of bread go from table to table (what you don’t eat someone else will). Instead of calmly stopping by at your table to see what it is you desire, the girls who work there will call over to you as they are dropping food off at a table near you. Instead of writing your orders down on a piece of paper, they’ll just yell into the kitchen what they need. If there’s no more empty tables, they’ll make you share a table with randomers. Most of what they serve are traditional recipes from this area. The menu changes daily (with a few courses on there every day of the week, a few that appear one specific day of the week and a few that randomly appear just once or twice when in season) and when they run out of something, the girls take out their big black markers and cross it out on the menu.
So you order a first course, a second course, a dessert and a load of wine, and for all of this you pay, what, a couple of magic beans, an apple core and some lint, a paperclip and a lighter, yesterday’s newspaper and three pretty looking pebbles. Honestly, you hardly pay anything at all. It’s dirt cheap, and it really is the best food in town. I love this place. Any chance I get to go eat there, I take. And when I go, there’s three things I always have to do:
– to order trenette al pesto as my first course. I rarely choose something else and when I do, I usually regret it.
– to order and then be denied whichever type of fish is on the menu that day, because they have already run out by the time I’m ready for my second course.
– to order the dolce della casa, the specialty of the house, a dessert that consists of ladyfingers drenched in rum covered with some kind of cream (when I find out how to make it I will post it here. That cream seems tricky though…).
It is a marvellous place, filled with marvellous people and marvellous food and it is one of the things I will miss most when I leave this country. So an ode to this place, and to my beloved trenette al pesto! Trenette are a type of pasta, kind of like spaghetti, but a bit flatter. This traditionally Ligurian recipe is with green beans and, believe it or not, potatoes. I found combining potatoes with pasta quite weird at first. Like making a rice sandwich or something. But it’s actually really good! Just don’t use too much potato.
So, for one person you’ll need:
– enough spaghetti
– one small-ish potato
– a small handful of green beans
– 1 – 2 tbsp pesto
– some parmesan cheese
– olive oil
Boil a big pan full of water with a lot of salt in in. Peel the potato and cut it into small-ish chunks. Take the ends off the beans and break them in half or in thirds. Once the water boils, throw in the potatoes and the spaghetti (if, at least, the boiling time of your spaghetti is about 7 minutes, which is what the potatoes will need). After two or three minutes, chuck in the beans as well. Once the spaghetti are good to go (tatties and beans should be done now, too) chuck it all in a collander, then back in the pan, immediately sprinkle over some oil and the pesto, and mix well. Cover it with parmesan cheese if you fancy.