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Thread: Spaghetti a la Vigliacca

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    Default Spaghetti a la Vigliacca

    So, there's a little restaurant we go to in Italy that has one of the best pasta sauces I've ever tasted. They call it Spaghetti a la Vigliacca; "Villain's Spaghetti."

    This place is a hole in the wall to end all holes in the wall; open summer only. In the winter the family all work together in a shoe factory. This restaurant is their summer vacation, essentially. Long dirt driveway, outdoor seating only on rickety benches, paper table cloths, bare lightbulbs hanging from wires for the evening, a stream running by that keeps the place cool and provides background white noise.

    My wife has been going there for literally 35 years, and we've been going together in the 14 years we've been together. We know the family well, but had never felt comfortable pressing them for details on the sauce. Until this summer. So now, I will share here, in the hope that you will enjoy it.

    A few notes:
    - The kind of canned tomatoes matters. I'm no food snob, but if you want this to turn out good, use good San Marzano peeled whole tomatoes in the large (28oz?) can. Don't use Hunt's. Or Contadina. Or Goya. You can get a case of nice Cento whole peeled tomatoes shipped free with your Amazon Prime membership for about $30. It's worth it.

    - You're going to use a lot of oil. This was a revelation to me, and made me realize why my pasta sauces had never been as good as the ones I had in Italy. A large part of making a good sauce is simply about flavoring the oil so that it carries those flavors and coats the pasta. If the sauce is made right, you don't need a ton of it to adequately flavor the pasta.

    - You're going to use a lot of salt. Early and often. From the initial oil in the pan, throw some salt in there. It's what's going to bring out the flavor of the ingredients in the sauce to flavor the oil, remember? And when you put your sauce on a serving size of pasta, what seems like a lot of salt during cooking actually gets pretty diluted. So don't be afraid of salt.

    - The brand of pasta is relatively unimportant compared with cooking it properly. Barilla and De Ceccho are the two I use most. Probably not Prince. Okay, I am KIND OF a food snob. DON'T put oil in the water. This does nothing to help anyone. DO salt the water. More than you usually do. Right as it's coming to a boil. For a largish pot with enough pasta for 2 people, I would use at least 1/2 TBS salt.

    - There aren't a lot of ingredients here. That's a good thing. Once you've done it a couple of times, you can literally assemble this sauce in about 20 minutes, including chopping the garlic. Just make sure not to rush the cooking. Give each phase a couple of minutes extra if in doubt. Each phase should become really aromatic before you add the next cold ingredient.

    These quantities make enough sauce for 4-6 servings of pasta, depending how hungry your group is. It's not enough for 8 people, so don't stretch it. Plus, if you make enough, you can use the leftover sauce the next day for killer bruschetta topping.

    Ingredients:
    Salt
    1/4 cup of olive oil
    1 whole head of garlic, chopped fairly fine
    1/4 cup of parsley, chopped fineish
    Hot pepper flakes to taste; start with 1 tsp and add from there depending on the flakes and how spicy you like things
    1 can, 28oz, whole peeled tomatoes, preferably San Marzano plum tomatoes
    1/2 to 1 cup white wine

    If you have an electric stove, carry it out to the curb and replace with a gas stove before beginning. Start a couple of hours before you want to eat, because after the sauce has cooked, it really benefits from being taken off the heat and cooling down a bit (on the stove), then being reheated right before serving. We use a low-sided Creuset thing, maybe 12" across with 3" high sides. Not a saucepan; you need some surface area.

    Do not preheat pan. Place olive oil, garlic, hot pepper flakes and a generous tsp of salt in cold pan. I don't think it hurts to let this just sit for a while before you start cooking (again, infusing the oil). Have a glass of wine; it's going to start smelling amazing, and there's NO HURRY.

    Turn the heat on to medium high. Stir occasionally for a couple of minutes as pan heats up. When you can really smell the garlic cooking, add parsley and continue stirring and cooking. There should be sufficient oil and moisture from the parsley & garlic that nothing sticks or browns; really it should look like an oil bath with garlic, parsley and hot peppers in it. Not like solids with a bit of oil. Add another big pinch of salt.

    Give the parsley a few minutes in there. Everything should be smelling rich, garlicky and good at this point. You can keep blasting this for a few minutes, but don't brown the garlic. Once things get really aromatic again, throw the wine in there, and continue to cook down for 3-5 minutes. Another pinch of salt. Don't be afraid to keep hitting it with heat.

    Once the liquid has cooked down and smells strongly aromatic again, add the can of tomatoes and their juice/sauce. No extra liquid/water/silliness. The beauty of good plum tomatoes is that, as they heat up, you can just break them apart with a fork/spatula. You don't need to chop them. Turn down the heat a little bit, stir regularly and vigorously, breaking apart the tomatoes and making everything awesome. Cook down for 15+/- minutes on low/medium heat. Taste for salt; if it doesn't taste fairly salty, it's not salty enough. Remember, the saltiness is going to be spread out over pasta. If it tastes great, and salty enough, turn the stove off. Don't cover; just let it sit and think about things.

    When it's time to cook the pasta, throw the stove back on to heat the sauce up. Salt the pasta water well, break spaghetti in half, and add to water. Cook until just shy of al dente; drain water cursorily, leaving a TINY bit in the pot. Put pot back on highish heat, quickly ladling a good quantity of sauce into hot pot with spaghetti. Cook a further minute +/- while stirring the sauce in. Remove from heat, serve into bowls, and ladle a small amount more sauce onto each portion.

    DO NOT use grated Parmesan cheese with this sauce. Just don't.

    Let cool slightly (you'll know you used enough oil when the sauce/dish holds its temperature after coming off the stove) and enjoy. You still have a bottle of white wine minus a cup that you will drink with this.

    That's pretty much it. A side note, this sauce also makes an excellent base for a tomato cream sauce. The cream will make it go further, obviously, but also changes the focus away from the garlic, parsley and hot peppers. Experiment.

    I'd be thrilled if somebody actually cooked this from the recipe and let me know what they thought.
     

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    Default Re: Spaghetti a la Vigliacca

    For those of us that can't cook, how about the location of the restaurant? Top secret?
     

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    Default Re: Spaghetti a la Vigliacca

    It's in Tuscany, between Camaiore and Lucca, on the Via Provinciale.

    I'll give you the name when you rent the house! ; )

    Just kidding. It's called Purgatorio.

    But it is close to the house--6k...
     

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    Default Re: Spaghetti a la Vigliacca

    This is going in the rotation. Awesome. Thanks for sharing!
     

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    Default Re: Spaghetti a la Vigliacca

    Magnifico.

    Made it last night, the wife loved it. She wanted Parmesan on top, but we didn't have any so she had to go without ;)

    I had basically everything involved in the recipe in the house already, but did make some slight alterations. I'm in Australia so we don't have the same brands of tomatoes as you, I used a local organic canned roma tomato, I only had about 2/3 of a head of garlic (and I was pretty happy with the amount of garlic at the end, and I really love garlic), and my white wine ran out on me at about 1/3 of a glass, so topped up the other 2/3 with a rose.

    Really similar in taste to the standard sauce my nonna made - Calabrese, so chilli is regular ingredient, I don't think she would have used wine though, but she had the advantage of growing the tomatoes herself.

    I am very happy to make this my new go-to sauce.
     

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    Default Re: Spaghetti a la Vigliacca

    San Marz are my go-to. Will give this a whirl soon and report back.
    my name is Matt

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    Default Re: Spaghetti a la Vigliacca

    excellent! glad it didn't bomb. i realized i've never really written out a recipe before, and while i cook a lot, i pretty much go by feel/smell/taste. i'll try to post some pics next time i make it. cheers!

    Quote Originally Posted by ABiCi View Post
    Magnifico.

    Made it last night, the wife loved it. She wanted Parmesan on top, but we didn't have any so she had to go without ;)

    I had basically everything involved in the recipe in the house already, but did make some slight alterations. I'm in Australia so we don't have the same brands of tomatoes as you, I used a local organic canned roma tomato, I only had about 2/3 of a head of garlic (and I was pretty happy with the amount of garlic at the end, and I really love garlic), and my white wine ran out on me at about 1/3 of a glass, so topped up the other 2/3 with a rose.

    Really similar in taste to the standard sauce my nonna made - Calabrese, so chilli is regular ingredient, I don't think she would have used wine though, but she had the advantage of growing the tomatoes herself.

    I am very happy to make this my new go-to sauce.
     

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    Default Re: Spaghetti a la Vigliacca

    We made the sauce last night as well, also with a few substitutions. No parsley on hand so we subbed in some basil from the garden. We also at least doubled the pepper flake content, but as we know they lose potency over time.

    Absolutely excellent. Thank you much John.
     

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    Default Re: Spaghetti a la Vigliacca

    I'll make that in a week when we get back from vacation. This is how I like to learn recipes. You are infact the man.

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    Default Re: Spaghetti a la Vigliacca

    "Let cool slightly (you'll know you used enough oil when the sauce/dish holds its temperature after coming off the stove) and enjoy. You still have a bottle of white wine minus a cup that you will drink with this."


    I think this is the most overlooked step in preparing many sauces. They always taste better when the flavors have a chance to meld and develop together.
    Thanks for this one I will be trying it soon.
     

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    Default Re: Spaghetti a la Vigliacca

    My wife made this over the weekend, and it was heavenly! I thought the sauce really had that "Italian" taste which so many of the American-style sauces are missing. More importantly, my wife gave the sauce a thumbs up for both the taste and minimal prep hassle. She used a bit more oil because our pan was so wide and shallow, but it came out well and really absorbed the flavors. She's thinking of going with diced tomatoes next time instead of the whole ones.

    Thanks for the recipe!
     

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    Default Re: Spaghetti a la Vigliacca

    Just finished eat this (licking the dish I served it in!). Very good!

    I have to compliment your recipe writing skills! First, you inspired me to make this. Second, you did a wonderful job describing the real TECHNIQUE here. Like you mention, there are only a couple of rather "normal" ingredients. But like so many wonderful dishes, its the way you put them together...
     

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    Default Re: Spaghetti a la Vigliacca

    haven't tried this yet, but will soon. just wanted to add a plug to the tomotoes used. i've been a san marzano (not so much a brand as where they must be from) fan for years. you can generally find them at Whole Foods, and recently even the local albertsons started carrying them.
    These tomatoes are so good i often do one with the olive oil, garlic, lots of fresh basil and san marzano diced on pasta...simple but good.
     

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    Default Re: Spaghetti a la Vigliacca

    Made this last night, very good stuff. I added zuchinni, which broke apart and mixed nicely with the tomatoes.

    And I'm with you 110% on electric stoves. Never, ever again.

    My chest is aching, burns like a furnace
    the burning keeps me alive

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    Default Re: Spaghetti a la Vigliacca

    Thanks, John -- We were in Italy earlier this year and I've been winging a version of this since then.
    Your version looks better, though. Good thing we like garlic!

    Grazie!

    Joe H.
     

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    Default Re: Spaghetti a la Vigliacca

    John,
    I made this last night with no substitutions. Just as you described, the sauce was a bit overpowering on it's own. As soon as it was mixed with the al dente pasta it was perfect.

    Excellent recipe
     

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    Default Re: Spaghetti a la Vigliacca

    I too made this last night, in preparation for eating tonight. Burned the garlic a bit - electric stoves are shit. Looking forward to a bottle of red and pasta.
     

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    Default Re: Spaghetti a la Vigliacca

    I've done it twice. Throttled back on salt and red pepper. It's an easy way to make the house smell like you know what you're doing. Great meal.
     

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    Default Re: Spaghetti a la Vigliacca

    I made this on Saturday and put it on homemade pizza dough, with backyard grown basil. I just need to start making my own mozzarell' and I can go off the grid.

    Great recipe. The only change I did was throw it in the blender for literally 2 seconds to smooth it out for the pizza.

    Used the rest tonight with pasta, more red pepper flakes, and a piece of chopped up chicken.

    Thanks for posting.
    my name is Matt

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    Default Re: Spaghetti a la Vigliacca

    if you are going to be picky about the tomatoes(and by all means, you should be) then please use good effing sea salt.

    for my money quite possibly more important than the tomatoes.
    Nick Crumpton
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    "Tradition is a guide, not a jailer" —Justin Robinson

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