Monday, October 17, 2022

How to Make Cassuli alla Carloforte like Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy

 By: The Food Hunter

 Cassuli alla Carloforte 

In last night’s episode of Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy, Tucci visited the Italian island of Sardinia. Famous for its crystal blue waters and passionately preserved traditions, such as hand milking goats. Food varies widely across the island with such delicacies as Bottarga, corbezzo honey, pecorino sardo, sheep's stomach filled with blood, and the Cassuli alla Carloforte.

Tucci begins his journey in the islands capital city of Cagliari, home to an impressive variety of fresh fish, and vegetables. One of the most celebrated foods in Cagliari is the Bottarga or what is commonly referred to as Sardinian caviar. Bottarga from grey mullet, was first introduced to Sardinia by the Phoenician occupiers and has since become famous around the world. 

Pecorino Sardo

Leaving the coast and traveling inland, Tucci meets with Luigi Manias a local island bee keeper and experiences his first taste of bitter honey. Bitter honey is made from the autumnal blossom of the native corbessolo trees and is often referred to as cobessolo honey. A hearty dish of spit roasted lamb finished off with a generous coating of honey is known locally as the "Bandit's dish".

Photo Credit: Matt Holyoak

Another of Tucci’s Sardinia adventures included a boat ride with Chef Luigi Pomata to watch the tonnare fishing event, an ancient method of blue fin tuna fishing that uses large nets to trap the mammals. Tucci gets a taste of the tuna in the traditional dish, Cassuli alla Carloforte, a delicious fusion of blue fin tuna, homemade pesto, tomatoes and pasta.

What Exactly is Cassuli alla Carloforte?

Cassuli alla Carloforte is a recipe that intertwines the food traditions of Liguria and Sardinia.
Genoese style Pesto is mixed with local San Pietro tuna, fresh tomatoes and handmade pasta known as cassuli. Although cassuli or pennete is recommended any short or long pasta would be equally delicious. Don't have access to blue fin tuna don't fret a good quality jarred Italian tuna will also work.

How To Make Cassuli alla Carloforte?

This dish requires making a pesto, which can easily be done in advance. You will also need to remove the skins from your Roma tomatoes. This can be done by cutting a small X into the tomato and dropping them gently into boiling water for a few seconds. When removed from the water allow them to cool before peeling away the skins. Although this recipe is traditionally made with poached fresh tuna, you can use a good quality jarred Italian tuna if that is all you have available. I would recommend this tuna from iGourmet.

Skinned Roma Tomatoes
What is Pesto?

Pesto is the classic Italian spread that combines the flavors of fresh basil, extra-virgin olive oil, freshly grated Parmigiano cheese and pine nuts (I typically use almonds due to an allergy) into an irresistible condiment. Ingredients are ground into a paste-like consistency, which is typically enjoyed either slathered on bread as part of a crostini or as in this instance mixed with pasta. 

Mixing basil pesto

Although pesto is super easy to make, you can make use a good-quality pre-made Italian pesto like the one available from Giadzy.

What to drink with Cassuli alla Carloforte?

When pairing food and wine I look for a versatile wine that fits many meals. I enjoy the Duca di Salaparuta Calanica Frappato from Southern Italy as it is an ideal choice for rich fish dishes as well as  hearty meats.

Cassuli alla Carloforte

Cassuli alla Carloforte

Ingredients for two people

  • 2 cups fresh basil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts or raw almonds
  • 1 ounce grated pecorino
  • 1 ounce grated Parmigiano 
  • 1/4 olive oil
  • 5 tomatoes, blanched, skin removed and chopped
  • 1/2 lb poached tuna
  • 1/2 lb pasta

Begin by making the pesto. Using a small food processor mix the garlic, Pecorino and Parmigiano cheese together until you have a chunky paste. Add the basil and oil and mix again. Season with salt. 

In the meantime bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook your pasta until al denti. 

Heat a saute pan over medium heat. Add tomatoes and saute until they release their juices. Add tuna to the pan and keep warm.

Remove pasta from water and place directly into the pan with the tuna and tomatoes. Add the pesto and toss to combine. Serve with pecorino cheese.