Alla Tarantina - על פי טרנטינה
In Apulia, Italy, right on the coast of the Ionian Sea lies the city of Taranto. Founded first by Spartans and later serving as the capital of Magna Grecia, it is old and beautiful with a very long and rich history. It is also the city whose namesake is our family name.
Residents who hail from Taranto or originate from Taranto are called Tarantino. But our name is not Tarantino, it is Taranto. This is because Jews who resided in certain Italian cities could not take the name in the form of "originate from" and had to simply use the name of the city. So Jews from Milan are called Milano, not Milanese, and so on.
We visited Taranto with our children many years ago. It wasn't what I expected. It is old, like Jerusalem. It's beauty is in its history and its ruins and its setting. We were excited to stay in a place where our name was on every street sign. And when we checked into the hotel and said our name was Taranto, they thought we were joking. (They gave us a special rate!)
Taranto is known for its seafood - octopus, squid, mussels, scampi - everything from the ocean and everything not at all kosher. Nonetheless, we partook in the city's bounty. I do not know whether Ken's ancestors ate this food, but if they did not, they missed out on a treat.
Last week I had extra tomatoes. Ken asked for pasta with shrimp. I intended to make a simple red sauce and add the shrimp and 1,2, 3 be done with it. But for some reason the idea of shrimp made me think of scampi and scampi made me think of Taranto and of the spicy red sauce we enjoyed those many years ago.
I found a recipe (actually several recipes) online for Cozze alla Tarantina, a typical dish of the city and the province and a favorite throughout Italy. The dish is usually prepared with mussels in their shells and crusty bread on the side. I decided instead to take alla Tarantina as my inspiration for my seafood recipe below.
BT's Pasta Alla Tarantina
2 cups diced fresh tomatoes
1/2 pound (250 grams) prawns - shells on, heads removed
1/2 pound (250 grams) white flesh fish such as cod or grouper - cut into cubes
1/2 pound (250 grams) mussel meat
1 pound (500 grams) dried pasta - any shape you prefer
1/4 cup olive oil
6 cloves garlic
2 red, fresh peperoncino chilis
1/4 teaspoon dried peperoncino flakes
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon oregano
1 cup white wine
1 cup filtered water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 small bunch fresh parsley
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Ground black pepper
Turn oven to 400 F (200 C)
Into an ovenproof dish add tomatoes, garlic, two kinds of peperoncino, oregano, bayleaf, clove, sugar, salt, pepper and olive oil
Toss ingredients until tomatoes are thorough coated
Place in the oven and roast for 30 minutes
Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes
Using a sieve over a bowl, strain liquid from tomato mixture
Remove bayleaf from roasted tomatoes and discard
Place roasted tomatoes in a bowl and reserve
Bring water to boil for pasta and cook according to instructions on package
Add reserved tomato liquid and wine to a heavy gauge saucepan
Place pan on burner and turn heat on to medium
When broth just begins to bubble, add fish and seafood
Turn heat down to low and simmer for 2-3 minutes
Add roasted tomato mixture and heat thoroughly
When pasta is cooked al dente, toss with seafood
Garnish with chopped parsley