Thursday, November 1, 2012

Spaghetti alla Caruso

It was 1873. The Italian families of his social stratum struggled to put bread on the table. Born into a poor family in Naples, he was the third of seven children, four of whom died in infancy. Apprenticed to a trade by the time he was 11, he didnt have much formal schooling, but made up for it with his gift for singing - in the church choir, in the streets of Naples, in the cafés, in a resort. By the time he was 18, he had earned enough money to buy his first pair of new shoes.

He was Enrico Caruso, and by the start of the 20th Century, he was famous - and famously booed onstage in Naples when he failed to pay members of the audience to cheer for him, as was then the custom. Although he later enjoyed a worldwide career, he never again sang in his native city, saying he would return “only to eat spaghetti.” So here is Enrico Caruso, and here is a modified version of the spaghetti that bears his name.

Spaghetti alla Caruso:

1 lb. spaghetti 
⅓ c. diced onions
1 c. diced green pepper
2 tbsp. olive oil or butter or margarine
1 lb. chicken livers, coarsely chopped (see Note)
1 c. sliced mushrooms
Two 14-oz. (398 mL) cans Italian-style tomato sauce
1 tbsp. tomato paste
¼ tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. oregano
Parmesan cheese, as garnish

Add spaghetti to large pot of lightly salted boiling water, proceeding according to package directions. In a large skillet, sauté onion and green pepper in olive oil over medium heat until onions are translucent and green pepper is soft. Add chicken livers, cooking until tender and no pink remains. Add remaining ingredients. Simmer 10 min. Serve over hot, well-drained spaghetti, topping with Parmesan, as desired.

Note: Partially freezing chicken livers before chopping them makes the job far more palatable. Once they’ve been cut, rinse them under cold running water; blot dry before use. 

For what I suspect is a more authentic version of this recipe, see:

I would not use the shitaki mushrooms the recipe suggests. I very much doubt that they were available in Italy at the time Caruso scarfed down this dish! If you want to use a commercial mix of wild mushrooms, go ahead, but I’m sure that simple brown or white mushrooms will do very nicely.

Sauté onions until translucent ... green peppers, too!

Partially frozen chicken livers work best

They're far easier to chop

Sauté until no pink remains. Add remaining ingredients

Regular mushrooms are fine ... don't waste your money!

Mama Mia, that-sa good! I served it on fettuccine

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