Spaghetti with liquorice tomato sauce
Spaghettone con liquirizia
It sounds bizarre, but spaghetti with liquorice is a wonderful invention first encountered under the stars of Cosenza.
It was a hot summer evening and we had walked too far too long in the wrong direction, before we finally sat down at a table in Trattoria della Paesello last the river in Cosenza. The centre of Calabria does not attract a great number of foreign tourists, but the family run restaurant was slowly filling up with locals willing to wait hours for one of the 8 outdoor tables lining the street. We got there just in time to be seated before the rush in, and after an enormous house antipasti, we asked the owner what typical local dish he would suggest for primi. The answer came promptly and 20 minutes later we were presented with a plate of thick homemade Spaghettone with a creamy tomato and chili sauce and a stick of liquorice root to stir it up. ‘It’s up to you to stir the spaghetti with liquorice root’, he said. ‘That way you can adjust the taste.’ which is just as well I guess. Liquorice is not for everybody, and the combination of hot chili and sweet, bitter liquorice may be too much for some palates.
I loved it though, and the next day I managed to find a box of liquorice roots from Rossano in an enoteca in Paola. The shop owner in Paola, however, didn’t buy into the idea of using liquorice with pasta. ‘It’s not natural to pair those flavours’ he said, ‘but of course, if you mix all kinds of different ingredients together, you can make even the most peculiar things taste good.’