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.’
350 g fresh pasta
400 g tomatoes
1 red chili
100 g caciocavallo
4 sticks of liquorice root
Salt and pepper
Skin the tomatoes and let them simmer to a thick sauce.
Add enough fresh chilli to give the tomatoes the desired kick.
Adjust the taste with salt and pepper.
Grate the caciocavallo and use it to cream up the sauce just before serving.
Boil the pasta and mix it with the tomato sauce.
Add a stick of liquorice and chili to each serving, and let the guest adjust the flavour and decide how strong they want their spaghetti with liquorice to be.