We’re all on the hunt for the authentic, whether it’s a dining experience with locals or a meal of undisputed origin. But the inauthentic – those crazy riffs and bizarre knock-offs – can be just as rewarding as the original, says Matt Preston, celebrating
Sh-Italian cooking rocks Matt’s world.
WE LIVE IN A TIME when authenticity is praised to the heavens. You haven’t drunk real Guinness unless that pint was made with the waters of the Liffey and sipped in Dublin. You haven’t had pad Thai until you’ve eaten it with Thai gangsters in a night market in Bangkok. You haven’t tried genuine Italian until you’ve slurped the Tuscan bean soup they serve in that bar off the square in Arezzo.
Enough, I say. It’s time for us all to admit that we love proudly inauthentic Italian food, which, for the purposes of exciting the internet beast, I shall call Sh-Italian. This food is daggy but often amazingly tasty, and it exists in every corner of the world. It might be Korea’s mentaiko spaghetti (the chilli cod’s roe creamy from warm butter and Kewpie mayonnaise), or those decadent Chicago deep-dish pizzas that have any self-respecting Neapolitan crying for their mamma. Here, then, are six Sh-Italian greats.
Carbonara was not, in fact, made by pre-Garibaldi charcoal makers – it only appeared in Italian cookbooks after World War II, created for the invading GIs using their rations of US eggs and Canadian bacon. It’s a classic example of a Sh-Italian dish – an Italian idea reinterpreted to suit locally available ingredients.
2. SPAGHETTI BOLOGNESE
Spag bol doesn’t really exist in Italy, yet we love it here. Spaghetti meatballs is another non-Italian invention: it’s from New York. Perhaps famous pastas are like famous chefs of Italian food: more come from outside the country than Italy itself.
3. TINNED PASTA
Italians might sneer, but tell me there isn’t a part of your soul that leaps when you see cans of pasta dinosaurs, letters or hoops. All are better than true Italian classics such as boiled meat ( bollito
misto) or rolls filled with stinky cow’s intestines ( lampredotto).
4. FUNKY PESTOS
You’ll struggle to find pesto made from anything other than basil and pine nuts in Italy. No almond and capsicum; no cashew and sun-dried tomato. Imagine how much poorer life would be?
5. GOURMET PIZZA
True Neapolitan pizza is made with an almost monastic approach, and the choice of toppings is equally as austere: no banana, bacon and barbecue sauce, no Mexican or Hawaiian themes.
6. FETTUCCINE ALFREDO
Fettuccine Alfredo is the king of Sh-Italian pasta. That you could make the sauce in a Nutribullet was one of its big selling points. It’s usually poured over flabby, overcooked green fettuccine. Head to delicious.com.au for six more of Matt’s Sh-Italian greats.
FETTUCCINE ALFREDO SERVES 6
You will need a pasta machine for this recipe. The homemade pasta can be substituted with 600g store-bought spinach fettuccine.
200g baby spinach 4 cups (600g) tipo 00 flour 9 egg yolks (reserve eggwhites for another use, frozen,
for up to 3 months) 1 heaped tbs freshly ground black pepper
1/ 2 cup (125ml) double cream 150g chilled unsalted butter, chopped 3 cups (240g) finely grated parmesan cheese
Place spinach in a food processor and whiz until very finely chopped. Using your hands, combine spinach puree, flour, egg yolks and 1 tsp water in a bowl. Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Enclose in plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, pass pepper through a sieve into a bowl, reserving coarser grounds from sieve in another bowl. Set both bowls aside.
Remove dough from refrigerator and divide into 6 equal pieces, lightly dusting each with flour. Working with 1 piece at a time and starting on the thickest setting of your pasta machine, run dough through 2-3 times, folding in half each time, until elastic. Roll the dough twice through each setting, without folding, reducing the thickness until 2mm thick. Repeat with remaining dough and hang pasta sheets over a horizontal bar for 10 minutes to air-dry slightly.
Pass each pasta sheet through the widest setting of the fettuccine cutter on the pasta machine, hanging each batch over a horizontal bar for 20 minutes to air-dry slightly.
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil and cook half the fettuccine for 30 seconds until just cooked through. Using tongs, remove fettuccine, drain and transfer to a bowl. Return water to the boil and cook remaining fettuccine. Drain and add to first fettuccine batch, reserving 1/4 cup (60ml) cooking liquid.
Return pan to low heat and, working quickly, add cream, half the butter and parmesan, reserved fine black pepper and fettuccine, tossing to combine. Add remaining butter and parmesan, and toss until well combined, adding a little reserved cooking water to loosen if necessary.
Divide among warm serving bowls, scatter with reserved coarse black pepper and serve immediately.