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Sicilian Mackerel Pasta via Venice

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Just about a year ago, as Spring was just setting in, I craved a mini-break. I was living in Italy then and had not yet visited the North East regions at all. This area of course includes infamous Venice! The beauty of it has been waxed eloquent, the canals, the houses and interesting architecture, the stunning vistas from the bridges and of course all that culture - carnivals, masks, beauty, art.. oh, so much.

Oddly, you don't really hear a lot about food in Venice. Sure, the seafood is divine, being so freshly caught and well, it is Italy... So the bar is fairly high relatively speaking. On the whole, very little is said of Venetian cuisine, other than, Ciccheti, which, is the Venetian version of tapas. Bloggers in Italy write about a few spots for the best ciccheti and few other places in Venice. Yet, by and large, the general consensus is that everything is expensive and not quite the same value you get from other parts of Italy.

VENICE-view from the Rialto Bridge .jpg
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As such that is true. Venice is an expensive city. As soon as Winter breaks, the prices of accommodations soar and everything suddenly gets more touristy. Disregarding the economics (as being normalized cost of living), then, there are several lovely food experiences to be had amidst the quieter alleys of the city. The city and my visit deserves its own travel post, and I will do that soon. In the meantime, I wanted to share a meal I made back home in the US recently, inspired by the best Sicilian food I have ever had. {Surprise!!} It was in Venice!

I have never had fish pasta. By that I mean, I have had seared fish over pasta several times or sure clams (vongole) and shrimp in pasta. But, before my dinner at this lovely Venetian restaurant, Bacarretto (Santa Croce, 2098, Venezia VE, Italy), I did not know mackerel and pasta could be such a love affair.

Before I jump into the recipe, I just want to leave you with a few words on the restaurant itself. It was not recommended to me by anyone. I simply happened upon it as I was meandering by the side alleys to avoid the tourist throngs. It is actually next to a lovely mask shop if you want to hit two birds... The first time I walked in was just after lunch and the portly Sicilian owner apologetically said it was closed but would open again in a few hours for dinner. When I promptly turned up at 6pm for dinner, he was first amazed that I was by myself, and, then graciously proceeded to, well, feed me! There was no other way to put it. I left my dinner in his hands and I walked out incredibly happy and floating on deliciousness. He was the kind of chef/owner who delights in the looks of pure joy that his diners have when they eat his food and personally caters to every table (no, I was not that special! LOL). If you are ever in Venice, I highly recommend going to this place!

Bacarretto

Santa Croce, 2098,

Venezia VE, Italy

And, ofcourse do come back and tell me how my version of his pasta fares ;-!

Oh so fresh! 

The seafood sold in the streets and markets are divinely fresh, without any questions of being frozen or even on ice!

The actual dish

My meal at this restaurant was the inspiration for this recipe. This is how it was served

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Sicilian Mackerel Pasta

6 small canned mackerel fillets in oil, oil drained and reserved

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed

2 plum tomatoes, skinned and finely chopped

Lots extra virgin olive oil

a good pinch of dried chilli flakes

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

spaghetti or taglioni pasta

parsley for ganish

breadcrumbs and pignoli {optional}

Flake the mackerel fillets into small rough 1cm chunks then put them in a small bowl.

In a hot pan warm the olive oil. Add  garlic, chilli and tomatoes, season and cook on a low heat for 8-10 minutes, stirring every so often until the tomato has started melting in.

Add the mackerel and stir gently to allow the fish to blend ever so slightly.

Meanwhile cook the pasta to al dente and drain, reserving a little of the cooking water to adjust the sauce if necessary.

To serve, toss the spaghetti in with the mackerel and chilli sauce. Divide into bowls, top with roasted breadcrumbs, pignolis and parsley as using.


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