Today we present a 19th-century Neapolitan calamari recipe, written by Ippolito Cavalcanti, Duke of Buonvicino. In this plate, you will find some of the traditional Italian ingredients, like raisins, pine nuts, olives, and capers. Cavalcanti’s cookbook, Cucina teorico-pratica (theoretical-practical cooking), is particularly interesting for understanding the modern Italian cuisine historically. While the first part is written in Italian and concerns high-end recipes, the second is about home cooking, and it is written in Neapolitan, a language with a minor but substantial literary tradition. The book had been a successful 19th-century bestseller and had been reprinted several times. Enjoy!
pioppini (poplar) mushrooms
1 cup tomato passata
1 red onion
extra virgin olive oil
Rehydrate the raisins with warm water and wash away the salt from the capers, then cut the calamari and clean the mushrooms, an optional ingredient in the original recipe. The author does not specify what kind of mushrooms, but we choose pioppini for the taste, an excellent match with calamari. Cavalcanti also suggests using peas if they are in season.
Warm up the oil in the pot and made a soffritto with the chopped onion. Add the passata, calamari, and mushrooms, cooking them for five minutes. Then put in the raisins, olives, pine nuts, and capers, and continue to cook for a minute.
The author recommends the recipe also for baby octopus and cuttlefish.
When it’s ready, plate it and serve. You can pair this dish with pasta or toasted bread.
Original recipe [for baby octopus]
Piglia na bella cepolla, la ntretarraje, e la farraje zoffriere dint’a na cazzarola co l’uoglio o co la nzogna; e quanno s’è fatta jonna jonna, nce mettarraje no poco d’acqua, e no poco de conzerva de pommadore, e farraje lo brodo. Po piglia gli purpetielle […] li lavarraje buone, e li farraje cocere dint’a chillo brodo, co’ passe, pignuole, aulive, e chiapparielle; e si n’è lo tempo, nce stanno buoni pure li pesielli, e li funcetielli.
[…]Li calamare si so piccerille […] li farraje pure accossì.
Take an onion, chop up it and made a soffritto in a pan with either oil or lard. Then add a little water and a little tomato passata to make the sauce. Clean the baby octopuses, wash them well and cook them with the sauce with raisins, pine nuts, olives, and capers. You can add peas or mushrooms if they are in season.
You can prepare small calamari in the same way.