Vermicelli alla sangiovannello (midsummer eve's pasta)

Yield: 6 Servings

Measure Ingredient
3 \N Salted anchovies or 6 oil-packed anchovy fillets
1 \N Garlic clove, chopped
⅓ cup Extra virgin olive oil
1 pounds Fresh red ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped
\N \N Freshly ground black pepper to taste
½ small Dried hot red chile pepper or 1/4, OR
¼ teaspoon Crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon Capers
⅓ \N Pitted and chopped black or green olives
⅔ cup Finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
\N \N Salt to taste
1 pounds Spaghetti, vermicelli, or penne

If you are using salted anchovies, rinse them thoroughly under running water and strip away their bones. Then chop them coarsely. (If you are using oil-packed anchovy fillets, simply chop them.) In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, gently sweat the garlic in the oil. When the garlic is soft, add the anchovies and cook, stirring with a fork and pressing the anchovies to dissolve them in the oil.

Add the chopped tomatoes and cook just long enough to soften them and release their juices. Add black pepper and, if you wish, the pepper flakes, and cook a few minutes more to blend the flavors. Stir in any of or all of the other possible ingredients -- capers, olives, and parsley, reserving a little parsley for a garnish.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a rolling boil. Drop in the pasta and cook until almost done -- about 10 minutes. Drain the pasta and turn it into the pan with the sauce. Stir to mix well and let the pasta finish cooking in the sauce, another 2 minutes. Turn into a heated serving bowl, garnish with parsley, and serve immediately.

In years past, on the night of June 24, the Feast of St. John or San Giovanni, true Baresi celebrated midsummer's eve by taking their tables outside and dining in the streets or on overhanging balconies from which they could call to each other and carry on conversations and flirtations.

"True" Baresi are denizens of the old town, living in the crowded warren of narrow streets and alleys and overarching white-washed walls that still curls like a North African medina around the harbor's edge beside the beautiful twelfth-century church of the city's protector, St. Nicholas of Nyra, now of Bari. (Even among themselves, the Baresi have a reputation for thievery so it's not at all surprising that they seem to have entered Christian history in the year 1087, when a group of Barese businessmen of the time stole into the Greek city of Myra on Turkey's Agean coast and made off with the relics of the local saint, Nicholas, whom they later set up as the patron of Bari. And, yes, he was the original Santa Claus.) On this, the longest (or almost) night of the year, the traditional dish served is vermicelli, spaghetti, or penne with a simple sauce of oil, garlic, anchovies, and tomatoes. Some add capers, some hot chile peppers and parsley, some olives, either black or green, but the basic idea is a quick, fresh, simple dish that celebrates the flavors of summer.

Excerpted from FLAVORS OF PUGLIA, by Nancy Harmon Jenkins. Copyright © 1997 by Nancy Harmon Jenkins. Excerpted by permission of Broadway Books, a division of the Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Recipe by: FLAVORS OF PUGLIA, by Nancy Harmon Jenkins Posted to MC-Recipe Digest V1 #667 by Rooby <MsRooby@...> on Jul 12, 1997

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