by Pino Ragona
Buongiorno, today I invite you to spend a day in my company, please follow me. Everything starts with a cold shower. I do not like it much, but it is wakes me up and believe me, I absolutely need this help, especially for someone like me who never comes home before two o’clock in the morning! The voice of my wife Claire, coming from the kitchen, reminding me of breakfast: toast, fresh fruit and my two now famous espresso coffees made from an old coffee machine inherited from my father, transported from Sicily, and called the “Jewel” of the kitchen. And away I go through the streets of London with my beloved Fiat 500 convertible, which with the now legendary registration number “17ALY” that reminds the people of British Empire that we are not only a nation of saints, poets, composers, artists, football players we are also stylists and noble chefs, proud… “To fly the flag of Italy”! Thirty minutes and a half dozen phone calls later, here I am at work, at the historical Giovanni’s of Covent Garden. First I pass by the “newsagent” to buy my usual Italian newspaper. But today, I buy two, one of which is a sports, since my favorite team, Juventus, has won against the “enemies” and would like to savor the event all afternoon! Finally I arrive at the restaurant, where I spend many hours or, as I often say, «25 hours a day, 9 days a week!» I love this place, the scents of fresh herbs, like basil, mint, rosemary, and that of various cheeses, salami, the just baked fresh bread, and various sauces in the kitchen just about to be prepared, and then all the lively “gossip” that have nothing to envy to the ones taking place in bars and restaurants all across Italy. Believe me, so Italian because our staff are and have always been, since we opened our doors back in 1952, always strictly Italian, something of Guinness Book of Records! After preparing the room and making sure that everything has been executed with care and attention, with fresh product that have been displayed with heart and simplicity: such a meeting point between man and nature. Then, the background music of operatic classics playing from an old gramophone: what more can I say, I never left my country! So, after having lunch with all the staff together, because this is the right way to start a day’s work, full of satisfaction, we begin. The restaurant begins to fill, slowly and gradually the sounds of dishes, cutlery and the gentle hum of the conversations, the volume increases as the room fills up, and takes precedence over the music that you can no longer hear… That day went perfectly, and my feet hardly touched the ground and to top it off a dear friend, David Hasselhoff, arrived from the back of the restaurant calling out «Hey Pino, my friend what are you going to feed me with today?» After I sat him at his favorite table I served him his usual large soft drink. My brother Roberto, remembering his past visits, prepared a hand-cut prosciutto with sweet melon and fresh mint: let me say, a masterpiece of simplicity! It is of this simplicity that we are proud of. David said, to follow he would appreciate something typical, authentic, something that if he was allowed, he would like to participate in preparing it, and so it was. I found a chef’s jacket, which fitted him well. Trust me this was not easy! We decided for the “carbonara”, although he said that he had eaten different variations of it around the world. Here is my recipe, THE authentic, THE original “spaghetti alla carbonara”! David was very proud to be taking part in the creation of this much discussed dish, that now bears his signature, Spaghetti carbonara alla “Hoff”. David thanks me often for this cookery lesson: this is another dish that, thanks to the members of the secret society of the Carbonari, links me to a star! David, I have helped you with this, but where were you when I was a young man and nearly drowned in the river Gatta in San Michele di Ganzaria, Sicily: good friend, I was rescued by a nun, to which I owe my life to, but I would have preferred to have been rescued by Pamela Anderson!
SPAGHETTI CARBONARA ALLA “HOFF”
For 4 people
320 g of spaghetti
120 g of smoked guanciale
100 g of pecorino romano
5 eggs (yolks only)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
Procedure: in a deep saucepan of boiling slightly salted water add your pasta. In the meantime, mix the yolks of eggs, pecorino cheese and pepper in a bowl. Fry the diced guanciale in olive oil in a pan (if you can, use a ceramic pan) until it becomes crispy. Drain your pasta, making sure it is “al dente”. Add the pasta to the guanciale in the pan but make sure the heat is turned off so it does not cook further. Now add the egg, cheese and pepper, which you have prepared in advance and stir quickly, making sure the egg does not cook. Serve immediately, accompanying it with a white wine that I recommend, “Terre di Ginestra” of Cantine Calatrasi. Buon Appetito!
My recommendations: never add cream, do not cook the eggs, make sure the pasta is truly al dente, serve in hot plates