Tuesday was the pinnacle of the Italian summer holidays. The word “ferragosto” is synonymous in most Italians’ minds with the seaside. For my friends who work at the seaside, ferragosto is the equivalent of Wednesday in most people’s work week. They know that after ferragosto, the season will start to end as the holiday makers desert the seaside towns and head back to work. August holidays have been around since Roman times when they were introduced by Emperor Augustus in 18BC but it was the Facists in the 1920’s who associated the holiday with taking a trip to the seaside or mountains. The tradition is well and alive today as on August 15th every year droves of Italians blanket the seaside. This week many will be heading back home but there is one dish they can take back with them.
For me, the seaside and seafood are intertwined. The first whiff of the sea and sound of a seagull make me automatically think of gleaming fresh fish and plump, juicy seafood. There is one dish I have discovered while holidaying on the Italian coast which combines smoked swordfish and carbonara. Essentially the guanciale is replaced by the smoked swordfish. A genuine carbonara is always made with eggs and not cream so the combination of eggs and smoked fish (think smoked salmon or kippers) is a classic one. It also means that pescatarians (vegetarians who eat fish) can also enjoy this deliciously creamy, smokey toothsome pasta dish.
Spaghetti alla carbonara con pesce spada affumicato (spaghetti carbonara with smoked swordfish)
While I have only seen this dish with swordfish in Italy, making it with smoked salmon would be equally delicious albeit not authentic. This substitution may be necessary however as smoked swordfish outside of Italy is rather rare while smoked salmon is ubiquitous. If I am making this for lunch for the children, I sometimes add a handful of frozen peas to the cooking water during the last 3 minutes of cooking. Here is a link to an illustrated step-by-step guide.
200 grams smoked sword fish, finely sliced (can substitute smoked salmon or another smoked fish you like)
15 grams butter
150 mls fish stock
40 grams pecorino cheese, finely grated
Heat a large pot of water to heat with 10 grams of salt per litre of water. (Do not add oil to the water.)
Separately, heat a saute pan over medium heat. When warm, add the butter and the swordfish to sear for 1 minute. Add the fish stock and reduce it until it has almost completely evaporated. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Add the pasta to the boiling water, giving a stir occasionally to ensure the pasta stays separate. Cook for the time indicated on the packaging. Drain thoroughly (do not rinse with cold water).
Add the pasta to the swordfish with the egg yolks, pecorino cheese and salt and pepper to taste. Toss together quickly to ensure that the egg cooks evenly and coats the pasta without coagulating and that the cheese melts. Divide between 4 pasta bowls and serve with freshly ground black pepper.