“I’m not a chef, I’m Italian”- David Rocco


Saturday, December 29, 2012

Bella Roma- Part Uno; Castel Sant’Angelo and Seafood Pasta


Rome. When I first came here to study opera in the summer of 2011, I didn't quite know what to expect. My mother had been before and loved it and of course I have a lot of pride in my Italian background, but I had never been out of the country and was a little nervous. But, like most people that visit Italy, I instantly fell in love. It may sound like a cliche  but it’s true. I feel in love with the culture, history, the people, the food and just everything about being in Italy. I mean, what’s not to love?  


The second I landed back home, I was literally counting the minutes until I got to return. And luckily, just a year, 5 months, 11 days and 7 hours later, I got back to Italy. Not only was I going to get to experience Roma, but Firenze as well. On my first trip, we spent 6 nights in Rome and two weeks in Ischia and I loved every second of it. This time, we would be spending 2 and half weeks in Rome and a week in Florence.

Today, we decided to cross the Tiber River and go to one of my favorite places in Rome, Castel Sant’Angelo. One of the reasons I love Castel Sant’Angelo so much is that it figures prominently in Puccini’s “Tosca.” It is the prison and execution location of Mario Cavaradossi, as well as where Floria Tosca throws herself from the rooftop after learning of Cavaradossi’s death, as she is trying to escape from Scarpia’s henchmen. As she stands on the edge about to kill herself, she sings “O Scarpia, avanti a dio!” and the theme of the hauntingly beautiful aria “E lucevan le stelle” is played. Every time I visit, I feel the need to sing the last line all the way at the top (only if no one is around of course.)

Castel Sant’Angelo is the tomb of Hadrian and was later used by popes as a fortress and castle. It’s very fun walking around and finding little nooks and crannies to squeeze into. After exploring for a few hours, we decided it was time for lunch and ate at a little restaurant right off the Tiber. As soon as we glanced at the menu, we knew we had to try the gnocchi with fresh seafood. 

Homemade gnocchi with shrimp, clams, tomato and arugula in a garlic wine sauce. We also shared a Caprese salad. The pasta was incredible. The gnocchi were light and fluffy, just the way homemade gnocchi should be. The seafood was delicious and fresh, the sauce a wonderful fragrant combination of the wine and garlic, mixed with the seafood flavor and a little juice from the tomatoes. It was heavenly. While I don’t know the exact recipe of their version, I did try recreating my own once I got home, so I am happy to share my recipe with you. I made homemade gnocchi, but you can obviously use pre-made. Enjoy!!

Gnocchi with Seafood

1 pound of clams
1 pound of shrimp
1 package of gnocchi
¼ cup of olive oil
1 tbsp. crushed red pepper
4 cloves of garlic, minced very fine
½ cup of white wine
6 baby tomatoes, chopped in half
Handful of fresh arugula

Start off by cooking the clams with ½ a cup of water until cooked. Keep the liquid. Remove the meat from inside the clams and throw out the shells.

Start boiling salted water for your pasta. Once it has begun to boil, add the gnocchi. In a large sauté pan over medium heat, heat up the olive oil. Add crushed red pepper and garlic. Once the garlic has begun to brown, remove from heat and add the white wine and around 6 ounces of pasta water to the sauté pan. Put it back on the stove to heat.

When the pasta is almost done, remove from the water and add to the sauté pan. Save the water!! Add more liquid to the sauté pan depending on how creamy you want the sauce. Add the clams and shrimp and finish cooking with all the seafood until nice and al dente. Add the chopped tomatoes and arugula. Serve immediately. Enjoy with a glass of Prosecco. Buon Appetito!!